Saturday 19 October 2019

Ireland's Favourite Airline named - 'You don't feel like a statistic, they're actually human'

Winner: Aer Lingus

First Officer Niall McCauley;First Officer Laura Bennett;Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus Chief Executive;and First Officer Paul Deegan. Pic: Naoise Culhane
First Officer Niall McCauley;First Officer Laura Bennett;Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus Chief Executive;and First Officer Paul Deegan. Pic: Naoise Culhane
Aer Lingus crew
Aer Lingus

Reader Travel Awards 2019

"It's Ireland," one reader said simply.

Aer Lingus may be owned by IAG, but it's clear the airline retains a unique place in the hearts of our readers.

"It feels like you're home when you step on board," you told us. "You don't feel like a statistic... they're actually human."

Some of you are new customers. Others have been flying with the former national airline since the 1950s. But there was a consistency to your comments. Aer Lingus now charges for baggage, seat selection, food and drink on many routes, but you still value its "genuine" aura, often lauding it in terms of feelings and emotions - nowhere moreso than in your stories of the kindnesses that make flying with the airline so special.

Aer Lingus's new livery and logo. Pic: Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus's new livery and logo. Pic: Aer Lingus
First Officer Niall McCauley;First Officer Laura Bennett;Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus Chief Executive;and First Officer Paul Deegan. Pic: Naoise Culhane

"You feel you start your holiday as soon as you board the plane with the welcoming crew," you said, highlighting their "unbelievable service" in actions ranging from replacing lost boarding passes to helping with buggies, from bumping one injured passenger up to business class, to going the extra mile for another on dialysis.

"I was travelling back to Paris, where I was living, and was very upset to leave family and friends behind. The flight attendants gave me tea and biscuits 'on the house'. A little bit of kindness goes a long way."

This is Aer Lingus's third time to win 'Ireland's Favourite Airline'. This year, our judges noted its growing role as an ambassador for Irish tourism, not just in flying more visitors into the country, but in the tone it sets for them.

"On one occasion I spoke with an elderly lady as we waited for our luggage," one reader told us. "She said that if the people she met on the rest of her holiday were anything like the crew, she and her friend were in for the trip of a lifetime."

"It's common sense service, with a human touch."

Travel Trends: Neo frontiers

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A321neo. Photo: Airbus

Three years since its acquisition by IAG, Aer Lingus is soaring.

New routes this year include Montreal and Minneapolis-St Paul, a brand refresh includes new uniforms by Louise Kennedy, and more than a dozen new aircraft are on the way to help fuel its transatlantic expansion.

Aer Lingus will take delivery of 14 new A321LR 'neo' aircraft by 2023. The single-aisle planes are 20pc more fuel efficient and will not only fly transatlantic, but bring Business Class back to its European short-haul flights.

'Smart Flies' seems an appropriate tagline. However, our judges note that Brexit and economic uncertainties, together with fuel price fluctuations, mean nobody in the airline industry can rest on their laurels.

Travel Trends: Rating Ryanair

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In 2014, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary landed at Dublin airport with the first of Ryanair's new Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft from Seattle. The aircraft has become a staple for Irish travellers.

2018 was in many ways a typical year for Ryanair - PR disasters, new fees, a falling number of votes in our Reader Travel Awards... and booming profits and passenger numbers.

"Without them I would not be able to visit home as often as I have done," you told us, bemoaning its bag charges but recognising its "value", punctuality and unmatched range of European destinations. "Ryanair is just like taking a taxi," you told us. "It has nothing to envy of Aer Lingus. There are more routes, prices are cheaper... and it's rarely late."

"It keeps other airlines on their toes," you said. "What you see is what you get. They broke the mould."

"Without them, we could not afford to go anywhere," readers added, hailing an airline that "does what it says on the tin".

While many readers voted Aer Lingus No.1 "because it's not Ryanair," there was also a wide recognition of how Ryanair "reinvented" the airline business.

"Without them we could not afford to go anywhere. You gave us cheap flights. Before that it would cost a week's wages to fly from Dublin to London."

NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2019 are sponsored by Iarnród Eireann. Read the full list of winners here.

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