Category: Archive

Echo Editorial: Friendly skies

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Aer Lingus has a special place in the hearts of many of us on this side of the Atlantic. Over the decades, it earned itself a reputation as a great airline, with friendly, efficient, helpful and flexible staff. From the minute you stepped on board, you were already in Ireland.
Sadly, Aer Lingus has been riding on this reputation for quite a while. The airline still has some truly excellent staff members, but these are stretched almost to breaking point.
Many of its planes are old, verging on decrepit; the in-flight entertainment system is several generations behind those of other airlines; customer service is virtually a thing of the past. Even the frequent flier program is in disarray, with the records of long-standing customers apparently erased from the system.
Aer Lingus management says private capital will mean new planes, services and routes. However, as the airline’s executives stand to pocket large sums from a privatization, their assurances to customers cannot be regarded as impartial.
In the real world, there are no guarantees what will happen to the airline. There may well be improvements, but things could also get worse.
After the sale, for example, there would be nothing to prevent British Airways from buying up the shares, and integrating Aer Lingus as another provincial branch of its own operations. This would see the new “BA Ireland” maintaining the busiest of Aer Lingus’ routes, but funneling most other helpless Irish passengers through the vast, labyrinthine pit that is London’s Heathrow Airport.
What is certain, though, is that from the moment it is privatized, the company’s primary loyalty will be to its shareholders, not its customers.
This is only right and proper; it is how our market system works. Right now, however, the Irish government’s duty is to represent the interests of the current shareholders, the Irish people.
And until the government can make a compelling case that privatizing Aer Lingus is in the long-term interests of those shareholders — not in short-term interests of government spending in an election year — it should suspend the sale.

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