OPINION: Turbulent Times Ahead for Irish Travel industry.(Leader)

Article excerpt

Byline: GERRY O'HARE Managing Editor of Travel Extra

LOOK up - it's Aer Lingus. Remember the TV ad? Now it's 'Look OUT it's Aer Lingus.'

How many unhappy travelling passengers feel like that this weekend?

Whatever the rights and wrongs, on both sides, it is - as usual -- the paying passenger who's the real victim. So what's new?

There they are, both sides, speaking on radio and TV, boring us all to death with their 'I'm right and he's wrong' platitudes. Give us a break, lads, and sort this out, please.

Did I hear anybody say 'sorry' to the passenger? Perhaps they did, but it would seem hollow anyway to those who packed their bags this week for that long-awaited holiday break, or important business trip, to ensure some company's financial future.

Aer Lingus has always been the company others set as a benchmark. A job with Aer Lingus was a glamour job, for life, back in the sixties and seventies. After all, didn't they transport the Irish soccer team abroad, not to mention Man Utd and Liverpool?

Wasn't it Aer Lingus who brought back Stephen Roche and Sonia O'Sullivan?

When the Pope kissed the ground at the airport, wasn't that an Aer Lingus jumbo jet in the background?

What Irish sports star would be seen dead coming off a flight that was not the national airline?

We could go on and on about our, hitherto justified, pride in the national carrier. Now there is an unpleasant taste in all our mouths.

As one irate traveller, about to be disappointed, said to me in the pub the other night: "What are these guys (the pilots) going on about? They are the best paid and most pampered profession in the country."

Do the pilots know this perception of them is abroad (pardon the pun)?

Whatever the undoubted faults of the Aer Lings management, this has been an unmitigated PR disaster for the pilots, even if their grievances are genuine.

I mean, who wants an unhappy pilot sitting in the cockpit?

This country is surrounded by sea. Its customers and potential visitors have to travel to get here. Our goods and our businessmen and women have to travel to market. It needs a national carrier for its economic survival.

It also needs Irish workers with good jobs and, of course, good terms of conditions and pay.

What's the use of having competent trade union officers and management if they are go to war with each other?

Didn't the pilots see what the management were going to do? Don't both sides know that at the end of the day it would be the customer, who pays all their wages, that will suffer?

And of course there is another deadly spin off to all of this. …