Ryanair's ambition to secure a lease on the Hangar 6 facility at Dublin Airport for the purpose of establishing an aircraft maintenance facility looked less tonight than it did yesterday afternoon. Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary met with Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and employment, Mary Coughlan last night at 7.00 pm but the meeting ended in impassse with O'Leary describing the discussions as "waffle about exploring other options". O'Leary added that Minister Coughlan had refused to intervene and force the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) to terminate Aer Lingus' 20 year lease on the facility and allow Ryanair move in.
The Tanaiste said that there were legal impediments to terminating the lease but that alternative arrangements could be made to facilitate Ryanair such as refurbishing alternative hangar space or building a new facility. She said: “It is unfortunate that he was intransigent in what he wanted to achieve. But my door is open as is the Government’s in the context of looking at other ways in which he could secure his maintenance operation in Dublin.” Ms. Coughlan added that the discussions were made all the more difficult due to Ryanair's refusal to negotiate with the DAA - the landlord in this instance.
In the Dail (Parliament) this morning, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called on the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowan to personally intervene in an attempt to secure the 300 jobs. "If you are supposed to be in charge, then get out of your seat..and prove it!" before encouraging him to personally intervene. Mr. Cowan insisted however that the Aer Lingus lease on Hangar 6 could not be broken. "You might think as Toaiseach that you can walk into office and breach contracts, but you can't.. You can't do it."
This evening, Ryanair issued a statement accusing the Taoiseach and Tanaiste of misleading the House in their statements today. Micahel O'Leary said
“It is extraordinary that the Taoiseach has now allowed himself to be tied up in the same lies which have been put about by the DAA for a number of days now. The Tánaiste last night confirmed (1) that the DAA can require Aer Lingus to vacate Hangar 6, (2) this can be done within 12 months (although Ryanair believes it could be done within 12 weeks given that Hangar 6 is empty) (3) that Ryanair did make an offer for the Hangar 6 facility last September and (4) the claim that Aer Lingus “won” a competition in November last despite creating no new jobs whatsoever are all false claims."
“Ryanair calls on the Taoiseach to correct these false claims, or alternatively publish the terms of the competition he claims Aer Lingus won last year, and explain to the 800 unemployed SRT engineers on what basis Aer Lingus won this competition (when they have created no jobs and have no heavy maintenance hangar) over Ryanair who offered 500 jobs and can start putting heavy maintenance work into Hangar 6 from September of this year.
“The Govt have yet to explain (as the Tánaiste refused to at last night’s meeting) why they are allowing Aer Lingus and the DAA to block Hangar 6 which is currently empty, from an airline which is offering to create 300 jobs and allocate a large volume of heavy maintenance work to this facility. Why does the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and this Govt willingly allow 300 aircraft engineers to draw the dole, while they preside over and defend Aer Lingus blocking the large heavy maintenance Hangar 6 facility, when all of Aer Lingus’ heavy maintenance has been contracted overseas for the next 8 years?”
Two questions remain however. Why is Michael O'Leary so insistent on having Hangar 6 ? For many years Ryanair has talked about and threatened to build its own low cost terminal at Dublin. Hangar 6 has roadside access and could very easily be converted into a passenger terminal. Should Ryanair conclude a lease for the facility it could apply in the future for the use of the building to be redesignated.
Secondly, Ryanair is not in the habit of making snap decisions. O'Leary is a past master at playing off two, three, four and more bidders against each other when it comes to getting his business. The decision to locate the new maintenance facility in Prestwick would have taken months if not years to conclude and discussions with other airports will have been ongoing for a similar period of time. Surely in the small world of (Irish) aviation Ryanair must have known of Aer lingus intention to occupy Hangar 6. So how did Ryanair manage to let Aer Lingus through the net to sign the lease on the building when it now appears that the building is of such significance to Ryanair's ambitions ?