PARIS: Ryanair chief vows to keep pursuing Aer Lingus

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Ryanair will proceed with an appeal against a UK decision to block its proposed takeover of Aer Lingus, but expects the legal dispute to rumble on for four or five years.

Speaking at the Paris air show, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary insists that, if allowed to complete a buyout, his airline could treble its money from its investment in Aer Lingus - in which it holds a 30% stake. "We're the only sensible shareholders," he says, in a dig at the Irish government.

But Ryanair wields "very little influence" over Aer Lingus, says O'Leary, adding that the flag carrier "continues to stumble from crisis to crisis" as a result.

Last month, the UK's Competition Commission provisionally ruled that Ryanair must cut its stake in Aer Lingus. O'Leary repeats his assessment of the decision as "bizarre", and questions any assumption that an ownership change at "a Mickey Mouse airline in Ireland" could "shake British Aviation to its very core".

O'Leary expects his airline's appeal against it to descend into "another lawyerfest" lasting four to five years, in which period, he suggests, Ryanair's traffic could rise to 150 million passengers per annum and Aer Lingus's potentially fall to five million.

While Ryanair is "always open to commercial solutions", O'Leary vows to continue pursuing the legal challenge, for now: "Our attitude to most bureaucracy is as Churchill said: to fight them on the beaches, fight them in the hills, fight them in the courts; and we will never surrender to bureaucratic incompetence and interference."

O'Leary says Ryanair has received to "no offers whatsoever" for its stake in Aer Lingus, which he suggests is "not one of the great attractive airlines of Western Europe - or even Ireland".