herald

Friday 15 December 2017

MOD on Monday: Aer Lingus needs to do one simple thing - ditch the inferiority complex

Aer Lingus planes on the tarmac
Aer Lingus planes on the tarmac
Tony Ward
Presenter Eoghan McDermott. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Harry Crosbie. Photo: Damien Eagers

There has been much opposition of late to the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by international airline operator IAG, and I must confess I was among that group, fearing that the unique identity of Aer Lingus and the subliminal attachment that so many people have towards it would be lost.

But last week, as the airline unveiled its latest grand plan - an upgrade of its business class cabins - so much of what is wrong with Aer Lingus was made clear.

The airline is spending €25m on the revamp and while, in aeronautical terms, it's not a huge amount of money, consider the following.

It will only affect long-haul flights to the US, less than 10pc of the airline's fleet and caters for less than 10pc of those flights' passengers. It's even more of a princely sum when you consider that all they are doing is catching up with their competitors, rather than offering anything ground-breaking.

Lie-flat seats? Well, they've been around for a dozen years. A touch-screen TV with choice of movies? Okay, about 15 years too late. A private reading light and magazine rack? Oooh, be still my beating heart.

Most disturbing of all, however, is the puffing up of this upgrade by the airline's management. Consider the words of Micheal Gannon, Aer Lingus' director of customer experience projects, a laughably-grandiose name for what is essentially a customer relations manager.

"What Aer Lingus is offering is a boutique product," he said. "If we look at our competitive set, we believe the business class product from end to end is the best out of Ireland."

So Aer Lingus has gone for a "boutique" experience, is also serving "artisan" Irish produce and only needs to offer something "bespoke" to complete the Holy Trinity of meaningless, marketing bulls**t.

No amount of buzzwords can disguise the implied message, however: we're a small airline, we lag behind our competitors in a lot of areas, but fly with us because we're Irish.

It's the inferiority complex, the "support the underdog" implication that is so frustrating, when you only have to look at that other airline, Ryanair, to see how an Irish company can truly be a world leader. Ryanair does it not by playing the green card, not by seducing us with mid-Atlantic corporate mouthwash, but by being the best.

Aer Lingus has learned nothing from Michael O'Leary, it seems, and is still banging on about its "Irishness", the "cead mile failte" you'll get on board, patting itself on the back when all it has done is finally catch up with every other airline in the world.

The national carrier has a unique place in most Irish people's hearts, and it's vital that it doesn't lose its identity and that remarkable feeling it imparts to returning travellers as though, once you step on the flight, you're almost home.

But it's equally vital, if it's to survive in the 21st Century, that it changes its insular, parochial ethos.

I never thought I'd say this but, in short, the takeover can't come quickly enough.

 

Ah, Freeman of the City ... is there anything more pointless?

High up in the pantheon of meaningless, trivial awards there is little to touch the infamous honorary degree which Irish universities are so fond of bestowing on visiting celebrities or retired politicians, usually of no great learning, in an attempt to garner some free publicity for their institution.

Coming a close second, however, is the Freedom of the City award, again usually proffered by local councillors to someone with, at best, a tenuous connection with that locale but which gets their city in the press and their faces in the paper.

For the recipient these awards are, of course, usually little more than a nice surprise, a grand day out, complete with a scroll to file away in a bathroom drawer beside all those equally useful shoe horns, pipe cleaners and garlic crushers you were given and never thought of again.

Not for rugby star turned pundit Tony Ward, however. Because last week, on being made a Freeman of Limerick city, he described the honour as being "the greatest personal achievement of my life".

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Tony Ward

Attending the Limerick Person of the Year ceremony, Tony was awarded the title of Honorary Limerick man, to which he exclaimed: "It's just blown me away!"

Also feted on the night was WBO middleweight boxing champion Andy Lee, who was named Limerick Person of the Year, to which he reacted in similar fashion, calling the award "mind-blowing".

All of which prompts the obvious reflection that, perhaps, the lives of these two sporting heroes are not quite as gilded as we presumed. On mature reflection, however, perhaps we should be delighted that not only are Andy and Tony so happy, but have chosen to express their delight in this manner, reflecting as it does the change that has come over that city.

After all, it's not long ago that being blown away in Limerick would have had a very different connotation.

 

Yes, Eoghan, you're not a celeb. Just tell your pal Laura that

i'm sure I'm not the only one who was sceptical about 2fm DJ Eoghan McDermott having a brain.

With his slightly hysterical presenting style, which comes across as a rather laboured attempt to be "edgy", and his fondness for disclosing the minutiae of his life on social media, Eoghan may have come across as just another attention-seeker.

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Presenter Eoghan McDermott. Photo: Brian McEvoy

But in a remarkably sane analysis of his own position in life, Eoghan this week declared that: "I'm just a presenter, I hate the word 'celebrity' - that's not me. Yes, I have a lot of followers, but I'm just a presenter. I am not curing cancer."

Well said, Eoghan. And while we're on the subject, how about having a word with your pal Laura Whitmore?

 

DDDA has a heart? It's a brain it needs

Like a lot of people, I believed the Dublin Docklands Development Authority had been wound up. The organisation was a byword for Celtic Tiger profligacy, culminating in the decision to spend €421m on the old Irish Glass Bottle site which is now worth about a tenth of that.

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Harry Crosbie. Photo: Damien Eagers

But, incredibly, it is still around and seems to have learned nothing. Harry Crosbie (inset) is considering legal action against the sale of a site next door to his home, which the DDDA disposed of for €450,000 without putting it on the market, amid claims that it is worth many times that figure.

"We still looked into our hearts and were comfortable that the right decision had been made," said the company's financial adviser. Thrilled as I am to hear the company has a heart, wouldn't it be preferable if it showed it has a brain?

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