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Aer Lingus cuts Cara - much-loved magazine put to flight by Covid

Pól Ó Conghaile


Aer Lingus has suspended the printing of Cara magazine "due to the impact of Covid-19". Millions of passengers will miss it, says Pól Ó Conghaile

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Cara Magazine (inset). Aer Lingus has suspended printing of the iconic in-flight title.

Cara Magazine (inset). Aer Lingus has suspended printing of the iconic in-flight title.

Cara Magazine (inset). Aer Lingus has suspended printing of the iconic in-flight title.

Cara magazine will no longer be published.

That won't come as a surprise, but I don't think I'm alone in feeling like the coronavirus has snuffed out another Irish institution.

Cara has been "suspended" in response to a reduction in flights "due to the impact of Covid-19", Aer Lingus confirmed to me in a statement.

The trickle of passengers that has boarded its planes since last March may have noticed the iconic title missing. Advertising has collapsed, and airlines have scrambled to cut costs and sanitise cabin environments, reducing 'touch points' like cash and in-flight reading materials. But only recently was the broader decision to cease publishing confirmed.

Of course, Covid has created far greater casualties than magazines. But this little loss feels sad because, similar to Aer Lingus itself, Cara was so completely Irish down to its DNA (even if, since IAG acquired the airline in 2015, it is no longer Irish-owned).

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A collection of recent Cara Magazine covers.

A collection of recent Cara Magazine covers.

A collection of recent Cara Magazine covers.

It was the Guinness or Waterford Crystal of the seat-back pocket.

The magazine was free, which meant captive passengers browsed at leisure. Its pages contained a rich, smartly curated spread of style, culture and travel coverage (of Aer Lingus destinations, of course), but always remained accessible. Cover stars like Saoirse Ronan, Imelda May or Jonny Sexton sat comfortably alongside features on Chicago's neighbourhood food scenes, or the best bars in Berlin.

You could skim or get stuck in. You could pore over an interview, flick through the in-flight entertainment pages or - as I often did - marvel at those route network maps, and wonder where you might go next.

For a travel writer, Cara was a prized commission. I wrote many times for the magazine, and loved that it allowed features breathe across several pages of glossy, lovingly-designed real estate. It was also a last bastion for travel photographers and illustrators in an age of stock and marketing images, valuing and paying for their contributions right up to the final issue.

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To see those words and images together was a gorgeous feeling.

Though overseen by Cedar under a broader media and content contract with IAG, Aer Lingus had continued to print Cara in Ireland, and had a long tradition of hiring thoughtful, clued-in and homegrown editorial talent - including editors like Lizzie Gore-Grimes, Tony Clayton-Lea, Fran Power (now features editor of the Sunday Independent) and, most recently, Lucy White.

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An undated photo of a flight attendant with Aer Lingus. Photo by David Reed/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

An undated photo of a flight attendant with Aer Lingus. Photo by David Reed/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Pictured with the Iolar at Bristol airport are Aer Lingus cabin crew Laura Mc Cabe and Catherine McDonnell, both wearing the very first Aer Lingus uniform worn by cabin crew in 1945. Photo: Dan Regan

Pictured with the Iolar at Bristol airport are Aer Lingus cabin crew Laura Mc Cabe and Catherine McDonnell, both wearing the very first Aer Lingus uniform worn by cabin crew in 1945. Photo: Dan Regan

Aer Lingus cabin crew on the Dublin Airport tarmac. Photo: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

Aer Lingus cabin crew on the Dublin Airport tarmac. Photo: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer at Dublin Airport. Photo: 13/08/1964. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer at Dublin Airport. Photo: 13/08/1964. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

Iolar ('eagle'), the first Aer Lingus aircraft, a DH84 Dragon EI-ABI that flew from Baldonnel to Bristol on May 27, 1936.

Iolar ('eagle'), the first Aer Lingus aircraft, a DH84 Dragon EI-ABI that flew from Baldonnel to Bristol on May 27, 1936.

An old postcard of Dublin Airport. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

An old postcard of Dublin Airport. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

The first Aer Lingus Boeing 747 jumbo jet on arrival at Dublin Airport, circa March 1971. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection).

The first Aer Lingus Boeing 747 jumbo jet on arrival at Dublin Airport, circa March 1971. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection).

An Aer Lingus cabin crewmember on board a Vickers Viscount aircraft

An Aer Lingus cabin crewmember on board a Vickers Viscount aircraft

Aer Lingus pilot Davina Pratt poses with the Ryder Cup after arriving at Dublin Airport on September 18, 2006. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Aer Lingus pilot Davina Pratt poses with the Ryder Cup after arriving at Dublin Airport on September 18, 2006. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

A passenger at Knock Airport for the first commercial Aer Lingus flights which took off on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1985. Photo: Independent News And Media/Getty Images

A passenger at Knock Airport for the first commercial Aer Lingus flights which took off on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1985. Photo: Independent News And Media/Getty Images

Monsignor James Horan and Crew at Knock Airport, in the 1980s. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

Monsignor James Horan and Crew at Knock Airport, in the 1980s. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

Aer Lingus cabin crewmembers Deborah McGuirk and Shannen McDonnell pictured on Sandymount Strand. Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Aer Lingus cabin crewmembers Deborah McGuirk and Shannen McDonnell pictured on Sandymount Strand. Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Liz Jackson and Russell Gleeson presenting flowers  to Pope John Paul II at Dublin Airport upon his arrival in Ireland in 1979.

Liz Jackson and Russell Gleeson presenting flowers to Pope John Paul II at Dublin Airport upon his arrival in Ireland in 1979.

An Aer Lingus poster from the 1950s courtesy of Tony Murray, taken from  Doesn't Time Fly? Aer Lingus - Its History by Mike Cronin

An Aer Lingus poster from the 1950s courtesy of Tony Murray, taken from Doesn't Time Fly? Aer Lingus - Its History by Mike Cronin

Stock Photo. An Aer Lingus jet prepares to land at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, in 2010. Photo: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Stock Photo. An Aer Lingus jet prepares to land at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, in 2010. Photo: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rev. Fr.Peyton, the rosary priest, waves goodbye at Dublin Airport for Lourdes. 06 October 1954. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection.

Rev. Fr.Peyton, the rosary priest, waves goodbye at Dublin Airport for Lourdes. 06 October 1954. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection.

Planey McPlaneface: Aer Lingus's hat-tip to the celebrated Internet boat.

Planey McPlaneface: Aer Lingus's hat-tip to the celebrated Internet boat.

The Most Rev. Dr.Dermot Ryan greets his brother Andrew and his sister Sr.Madeline at Rome Airport. He arrived for his installation as Archbishop of Dublin in a cermony conducted by the Pope. Pic Matt Walsh 10/2/73 - indo pic Scanned from the NPA archives.

The Most Rev. Dr.Dermot Ryan greets his brother Andrew and his sister Sr.Madeline at Rome Airport. He arrived for his installation as Archbishop of Dublin in a cermony conducted by the Pope. Pic Matt Walsh 10/2/73 - indo pic Scanned from the NPA archives.

A vintage poster sees Aer Lingus advertise New York

A vintage poster sees Aer Lingus advertise New York

An original ticket for Aer Lingus's (then Aer Línte) early transatlantic flights. Flights departed Dublin and flew via Newfoundland to JFK Airport in New York. They first departed in 1958.

An original ticket for Aer Lingus's (then Aer Línte) early transatlantic flights. Flights departed Dublin and flew via Newfoundland to JFK Airport in New York. They first departed in 1958.

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus

A vintage poster from Aer Lingus's glory days

A vintage poster from Aer Lingus's glory days

An Aer Lingus Super Constellation, known as the Super Connie. The propeller-driven were built by Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at Burbank, California.

An Aer Lingus Super Constellation, known as the Super Connie. The propeller-driven were built by Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at Burbank, California.

In 1967 Aer Lingus flew fresh shamrock to Manchester to present to George Best

In 1967 Aer Lingus flew fresh shamrock to Manchester to present to George Best

The Golden Shamrock class, as regularly advertised in holiday magazines throughout the 1960s

The Golden Shamrock class, as regularly advertised in holiday magazines throughout the 1960s

John Hinde postcard of the Old Terminal and Pier A at Dublin Airport. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

John Hinde postcard of the Old Terminal and Pier A at Dublin Airport. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

Snow at Dublin Airport in 2010. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Snow at Dublin Airport in 2010. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Christoph Mueller Aer Lingus CEO (centre) with Aer Lingus cabin crew Lesley Murphy and Grainne Frawley launching flights from Shannon to Boston Aer Lingus.

Christoph Mueller Aer Lingus CEO (centre) with Aer Lingus cabin crew Lesley Murphy and Grainne Frawley launching flights from Shannon to Boston Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus ad, featuring the Vickers Viscount planes

Aer Lingus ad, featuring the Vickers Viscount planes

Johnny Sexton was In Dublin Airport. where he was unveiled as an Aer Lingus ambassador. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland 2015

Johnny Sexton was In Dublin Airport. where he was unveiled as an Aer Lingus ambassador. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland 2015

Members of 'Ireland on Parade', pictured at Dublin Airport before their departure to USA  11 September 1964. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

Members of 'Ireland on Parade', pictured at Dublin Airport before their departure to USA 11 September 1964. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

Composite image: An Aer Lingus aircraft takes off from London Heathrow in 2015 (Photo: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images) with vintage poster of 1950s cabin crewmember (inset).

Composite image: An Aer Lingus aircraft takes off from London Heathrow in 2015 (Photo: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images) with vintage poster of 1950s cabin crewmember (inset).

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An undated photo of a flight attendant with Aer Lingus. Photo by David Reed/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Of course, this was an advertising-based model (remember all of those car hire, hotel, gift and tour company spreads?). But it was never token, wallpaper coverage of 'Oireland'. Cara was a magazine that cared, whose contributors put in the miles and research, and whose publishers invested in 'insider' coverage of Irish food, design, sport and culture.

For inbound travellers to Ireland, it whetted the appetite. For those of us returning home, it set the heart ticking.

Cara didn't have to print in high volume, but it was read by millions of passengers every year, and the production values reflected that. By the end of the month, copies were dog-eared, but hanging in there. And countless passengers will recall pulling fresh copies from seat-backs at the beginning of the month, inhaling that newly-minted whiff as they opened the pages.

Cara was first published in 1968 (you can see past issues here) and had survived other threats - in-flight movies, iPads and Wi-Fi were all seen as potential game-changers, but passengers continued to pick it up regardless.

Covid, as with so much else, is different. Airlines have been eviscerated in 2020, with Dublin Airport alone reporting 21.4 million fewer passengers to the end of October this year. Every cent possible is being saved.

In September, BA announced that after 47 years it would take its High Life magazine online, reserving a few print copies for airline lounges and frequent flyers. In the US, United and American have resumed publication of their in-flight titles, but Southwest and Delta have opted not to... for now.

Will this be the final call for Cara?

In its statement, the airline left the door open: "Cara is a valued travel resource for Aer Lingus customers and we are currently working with Cara’s publishers [Cedar] regarding the format of the publication," it said.

Could it appear online? Could it be mailed or emailed directly to loyal customers? Could an app be available for reading on future flights?

Could it even make a print comeback, if advertising and browsing return in a thoroughly vaccinated, post-pandemic future?

I hope it hasn't taken off for good.


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