A cunning plan to heal the Belfast-Shannon rift…

As the controversy over the proposed closure of Aer Lingus flights from Shannon continues, not least between the mickey taking East and the West [makes a change from odious wrangles over North Southery – ed], Newton Emerson offers a humble solution (subs needed) in today’s Irish Times:By Newton Emerson

Following several days of intensive negotiations between airlines, pilots and unions, the government has announced a last-minute compromise on the Shannon-Heathrow issue.
“We are confident that nobody from the Shannon region can possibly object to this,” an official spokesman said.

Under the deal, to which nobody from the Shannon region can possibly object, Aer Lingus will resume flights between Shannon and Heathrow via Belfast International. The proposed “Belfast stopover” will involve a 20-minute detour North, followed by another 20 minutes of circling around in the air for no apparent reason. On landing, passengers will be ordered off the plane and marched into immigration.

“There is little point going through UK immigration in Belfast for a flight within the EU,” the official spokesman admitted. “Then again, there is little point going through US immigration at Shannon since 9/11.”

In recognition of the cultural sensitivities of people from the Shannon region, immigration officials in Belfast will be taught several key phrases in Irish, such as “What?”, “The forms are over there” and “No, I don’t have a pen.” Several people will also be employed to stand around glancing officiously at completed forms without saying a word.

“Staff will be relying on the Belfast stopover for their livelihoods, so obviously they will treat passengers with respect, dignity and gratitude,” the official spokesman explained. “Ceud Mille Failte!”

At this point in the procedure, to which nobody from the Shannon region can possibly object, one or two passengers may leave the flight and attempt to reclaim their luggage. This will demonstrate to other passengers that the stopover is a vital link for high-powered business executives in the burgeoning Shannon-Belfast economic corridor, fully justifying the fuel costs and airport fees involved in an additional takeoff and landing.

The remaining passengers, or all of the passengers if one or two people don’t leave the flight at Belfast, will then be invited to spend a pleasant hour shopping in the airport concourse. In accordance with Belfast’s new role as an Irish “hospitality hub”, this invitation will be issued personally by a large sign over the immigration hall exit reading: “Spend a pleasant hour shopping in the airport concourse”. Attendance will be compulsory.

Once locked in the concourse, to which nobody from the Shannon region can possibly object, passengers may purchase a wide range of high-quality traditional gift items such as a Northern Ireland mug (left or right handle), a Northern Ireland pen (not available in immigration) or a Northern Ireland coaster (Protestants only). Then they can relax on a plastic chair with a cup of the airport’s famous Northern Ireland coffee, served on a saucer of the airport’s famous Northern Ireland coffee. More sophisticated travellers might care to ask for an “expresso”, which is the Northern Ireland version of an espresso.

Finally, passengers who have not already lost their pointless immigration forms can board their onward flight, unless the flight has been delayed by any one of the numerous reasons why onward flights may be delayed.

Industry experts are confident that the Belfast stopover will add a mere three hours to the journey.

“I suppose it’s not a perfect compromise,” the official spokesman conceded. “However, the main thing is that there is absolutely nothing about it to which anyone from the Shannon region can possibly object.”

© 2007 The Irish Times

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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