Welcome back Aer Lingus. Hang around if you can! The week gone by surely ranks as one of the more bizarre in the recent history of the Irish ship of state. With the national flag carrier doing a runner from global aviation’s radar screens, tens of thousands of travelers on both sides of the Atlantic were plunged into a morass of inconvenience and uncertainty. And yet, if the Irish media is to be taken at face value, the fate of Aer Lingus ranked a poor fourth to the Roy Keane/Mick McCarthy affair, the return of the Bertie Bowl debate and the antics of sports pundit Eamon Dunphy who has proclaimed a desire to see the Republic of Ireland lose in the World Cup – for their own good! At one point in the middle of the Aer Lingus shutdown, a top headline in one leading Irish daily hinted at a return to sanity and perspective. The headline spoke of a plane delay. Aer Lingus? No, it was a report from Stockholm about a group of “wives and partners” of Irish World Cup players whose plane was hit by a food truck on the airport tarmac. At least they were on a tarmac.
Ireland has made great strides in recent years at all levels and must be now viewed as both a developed economy and mature democracy in a broader European context. All the more reason to view last week’s airline debacle as a plunge into a green-tinged twilight zone. Thankfully, it was a return trip.
As for Aer Lingus itself? Clearly the government, which owns 95 percent of the carrier, has stepped back into the shadows and is leaving it to the airline’s management to sort out the future with a survival plan that was tinkered with to a degree in recent days that was as apparently inconsequential as it was infuriating. Much, clearly, remains to be sorted out in terms of staff/management relations at Aer Lingus.
Regardless of how Aer Lingus is actually run, or who is running it, the company is still Ireland’s national flag carrier and the most critical link between Ireland and the United States, a source of such a profundity of economic investment in recent years that the Celtic Tiger would yet be a kitten without it.
The near meltdown that has just occurred at Aer Lingus must not be allowed happen again. The airline’s survival and prosperity requires steady hands at management level as much as in the flight cockpit. The future for Aer Lingus should be a bright one, and certainly one that soars far above the level of mere survival.