Ryanair makes renewed push for second Stansted runway

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Ryanair will push for the construction of a second runway at Stansted airport "as soon as possible" if it takes a minority stake in the airport following the sale by BAA.

It believes the Essex site is the ideal location to create additional airport capacity in the southeast of England and would absorb a great deal of the short-haul services that are slowly being forced out of Heathrow.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary reaffirmed on 4 September that the low-cost carrier may take a shareholding of up to 24.99% in the airport. As the largest airline at Stansted, a number of prospective bidders for the airport have already approached it with a view to encouraging its participation in a consortium.

Although O'Leary says Ryanair would be happy not to own a stake in Stansted, he says: "Most bidders want to tie us in to a consortium [to demonstrate] we have an interest in the airport and not just to screw it into the ground."

Ryanair, he says, is "key" to creating traffic growth at Stansted and driving cost reductions in the airport's operations.

"We would do all the sensible things to make Stansted a more efficient airport that BAA would never do."

O'Leary also remains positive that Ryanair's bid for Aer Lingus will succeed despite ongoing scrutiny by the European Commission. He believes its plans to offer around 45 routes to other operators where it competes directly with the Irish flag carrier will be sufficient to pacify the competition regulator.

Ryanair has been talking to a "double-digit" number of airlines over the potential route offering, says O'Leary and indicates that it would look to lease or sell Aer Lingus's slots at Heathrow if its acquisition is successful.

He says: "The point people miss is what happens to Aer Lingus if the bid isn't approved - they wither on the vine. And if we grow at Dublin Aer Lingus blows up."