O'Leary cites unprecedented remedies for Aer Lingus deal

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Irish budget carrier Ryanair has put forward what it calls an "unprecedented" remedies package to counter European Commission competition concerns over its takeover bid for compatriot carrier Aer Lingus.

Ryanair submitted the package last month which it says includes up-front buyers prepared to base aircraft or operate on 42 of the 47 cross-over routes identified by the Commission, when it referred the Aer Lingus take over to a phase two review.

"Some have indicated they are willing to come to Irish airports and establish aircraft bases, others are willing to come in and operate some of the other cross-over routes but without setting up bases in Ireland," said Michael O'Leary, speaking during a first half results press conference in London today.

"What is unprecedented about the Ryanair remedy package is all 42 of those other routes [not served by substantial competitors] has an up-front buyer, new entrant airline, something that was not achieved on the recently rubber-stamped BA takeover of British Midland."

Ryanair has long been frustrated in its attempts to take over Aer Lingus, arguing consolidation elsewhere in Europe has been permitted by regulators. Its latest attempts to takeover Aer Lingus were referred to a deeper investigation by European competition regulators at the end of August. O'Leary though says the recent approval of British Airways' bid for BMI "is the precedent that changes the game".

He says: "If the number one airline can buy the number two at Heathrow, we find it impossible to see why the number one can't buy the very significantly number two in Ireland. We remain confident that if our offer is considered in the same terms as the BA/BMI deal, then it will be approved at phase two."

O'Leary reiterates the carrier's intentions to retain the Aer Lingus brand and to grow the carrier if it secures control of the airline.

"We think we could make Aer Lingus a bigger and better and lower-cost version of EasyJet, which would be a lower fare airline at the major airports," he says. "Aer Lingus already has a presence at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt, airports Ryanair would never wish to fly to, but which Aer Lingus could fly and grow. We set out a plan that instead of declining, we would grow it from 9.5 million to 15 million passengers over a five year period."