Aer Lingus blamed over Unifil airlift


Army criticism:The Army and the Department of Defence expressed serious dissatisfaction with Aer Lingus over the manner in which the airline dealt with the airlift of troops back to Ireland after a tour of duty in south Lebanon in 1981.

The Irish commander of the multinational United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil), Maj-Gen William Callaghan was also “very perturbed and annoyed”.

Details of the episode have come to light with the release of the relevant documents.

A July 24th letter from the Department of Defence to Aer Lingus chief executive David Kennedy refers to “the rotation of Irish contingents serving with Unifil in April/May 1981, which was carried out by Aer Lingus under contract to the United Nations.”

A document enclosed details how on April 22nd, Irish Unifil troops were waiting at the airport in Tel Aviv for two Aer Lingus Boeing 707s to arrive. “However, instead of two Irish aircraft as expected, one Irish and one Austrian aircraft arrived in Israel.”

This “caused security problems for the Israeli authorities and engendered considerable embarrassment for the Force Commander of Unifil. Delay also ensued. Because of problems of volume, 2.5 tons of cargo were left behind.”

Because of the delay, “the returning passengers were on the tarmac in Tel Aviv for five hours instead of the normal two hours without food, in a temperature of 96 degrees, after a journey of approx eight hours from south Lebanon”.