Winner: Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus has grown its route network to include several dozen destinations as diverse as Sicily and San Francisco. It flies millions of people every year (and makes millions doing it). But it still manages to provide something other airlines simply don't, readers told us - "a touch of home".
What did it take to be named Ireland's Favourite Airline in our Reader Travel Awards 2020?
This is "a better flying experience", you said. Flights with Aer Lingus offer "a less frantic experience", "a warm welcome" and an underlying sense of professionalism. Aer Lingus doesn't always have the cheapest fares, and of course it charges for baggage and seat selection on many routes, but it "hasn't stripped every modicum of glamour from air travel", you said.
Winning over three times the nominations of its closest rival, many of your comments came down to the airline's service. "You are treated like a human", as one reader put it. We heard of a six-year-old offered a cockpit tour "that he still talks about" and care taken with a precious wedding dress.
"As a disabled passenger, they go beyond the call of duty to help", another reader told us.
"My son has egg and nut allergies and carries an EpiPen," one person said. "Flying can be nerve-wracking, as we need to make sure the seat area is super clean and trust that staff will make appropriate announcements to other passengers. I've always found the team in Aer Lingus to be so helpful, allowing boarding first, making announcements and checking on us during the flight. Small things but makes us more relaxed without creating a fuss."
This year will mark the fifth anniversary of Aer Lingus's acquisition by IAG. In that time, it has not only expanded its route network (having taken delivery of its first Airbus A321 'neo' aircraft, 2020 sees its biggest ever transatlantic schedule), but introduced new logos and livery. This week, we saw new staff uniforms designed by Louise Kennedy, too.
Our judges would love to see less single-use plastics and a better reflection of Irish producers and ingredients on its menus, but had no hesitation in recognising "a fantastic Irish brand", as you described it.
Here is "a national treasure", our readers say.
Finalists: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Emirates, Ryanair, Turkish Airlines