Aer Lingus suffered yet another systems failure on Monday, when thousands of passengers were unable to check in online or use its booking management system due to a glitch. It was just the latest in a long line of customer service disasters to have befallen the airline this year.
Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton seems to have spent most of the year apologising to angry customers for various operational disasters. That is never a good look for any executive. If the airline keeps it up, its brand will struggle to shrug off the damage.
The latest imbroglio affected check-in on the Aer Lingus website and app for most of the day. It follows a separate instalment of chaos of 10 days ago, when construction workers in the UK severed a fibre-optic cable that brought down all of the Irish airline’s customer management and communications systems. Then the back-up system failed. More than 60 flights were cancelled and 9,000 passengers were left stranded abroad, most without any information. Embleton wrote to passengers with yet another apology.
In the busy summer months, its baggage-handling system appeared to be in chaos, as stories abounded of Aer Lingus passengers waiting weeks to receive their luggage after flights. Again, a dearth of communication from the airline was highlighted by many irate customers. Aer Lingus said it was “doing its best” to deal with the problem, with Embleton telling an Oireachtas committee in July that it was dealing with 1,200 missing bags.
Earlier in the summer, in late June and early July, it cancelled dozens of flights due to a spike in Covid cases among its staff, sparking another round of apologies from the airline.
In March, Aer Lingus was quick to signal its frustration and pile the pressure on DAA, when massive queues abounded at Dublin Airport due to staff shortages and the facility’s operator rightly took the blame. “It is out of our control,” said Aer Lingus at the time. For each failure that has happened on its own watch since, it has had an excuse ready. Eventually, its customers will get tired of hearing them.
Its rival, Ryanair, occasionally has problems such as the wave of cancellations due to a pilot shortage in 2017. But, in general, it is now streets ahead of its former flag carrier rival in terms of customer service.