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Dan White: Time for pampered cabin crew to face a hard landing

Given that airlines traditionally make most of their money in the second half of the year, Aer Lingus is on track to record a profit for the whole of 2010. And not before time.

Mounting losses had meant Aer Lingus was going through its cash at an alarming rate since its September 2006 flotation.

While the latest figures indicate Aer Lingus's net cash reserves have steadied at about €400m, they have still almost halved since the time of the flotation three years ago.

Someone forgot to tell the cabin crew. The Aer Lingus crew are objecting to working 850 hours a year, the equivalent of about 20 hours a week.


Instead they are threatening to reject new rosters agreed as part of the Aer Lingus cost-cutting plan, designed to shave €97m a year from the airline's previously bloated operating costs.

With Ryanair's operating costs still way under those of Aer Lingus, the cost-cutting plan imposed by its no-nonsense boss Christoph Mueller was the absolute minimum that the former state-owned airline could have done if it was serious about staying in the air.

Since taking over at Aer Lingus last year the tough-talking German has refused to sugar the pill for the airline's previously pampered employees.

This dose of much-needed reality therapy hasn't played very well in some quarters at the airline.

The latest outburst has come from the cabin crew. They have now voted three times on the airline's demands to increase the amount of time which they spend in the air from 650 to 850 hours per year.

Now the cabin crew are once again threatening industrial action if the new rosters are implemented. Their trade union, Impact, assures us this will not affect passengers. Impact and its members are either fooling themselves or the rest of us.

Are the Aer Lingus cabin crew and their trade union being dishonest or deluded?

It doesn't really matter. Aer Lingus has on its doorstep the most efficient airline in Europe, Ryanair, also its largest shareholder. If Mueller gets it wrong Michael O'Leary will swoop.

For the employees, the choice is between the new rosters and no rosters at all.