Ryanair plans to move Aer Lingus’s main base to Brussels if it succeeds in a takeover bid for its Irish rival, the carrier revealed yesterday.
The budget airline said it would close bases at Gatwick and Belfast.
Ryanair also confirmed it has discussed disposing of Aer Lingus routes to and from Ireland to rival airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and CityJet.
Regional carrier CityJet has headquarters in Dublin but is owned by Air France-KLM.
Ryanair said it would submit a package of remedies including commitments from rival airlines to operate some of the 36 routes on which it and Aer Lingus have no competitors.
The carrier had previously dismissed as “rumour and speculation” reports that it proposes to pull Aer Lingus off a series of Dublin routes if it gains control.
The European competition commissioner is reviewing Ryanair’s euro700 million (£550 million) bid for Aer Lingus – its third bid for its Irish rival in five years – with Ryanair poised to submit detailed remedy proposals and a decision expected in January.
Ryanair already owns just under 30% of Aer Lingus, whose bosses have dismissed the bid as “not credible”.
A Ryanair spokesman said: “The way get across the line is by cutting a number of Aer Lingus routes, cutting a certain amount of Ryanair routes and then refocus Aer Lingus.
“Instead of having a Belfast base and a Gatwick base, they should have a Brussels base,” he said.
The carrier revealed Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary had met Willie Walsh, head of British Airways’ parent IAG, to discuss whether BA would take any routes.
The spokesman said: “There is certainly enough interest [from other airlines] to form the remedies package.”
He insisted Ryanair would maintain the Aer Lingus brand and reposition it between Ryanair and easyJet, cutting fares on short-haul routes and revamping business class on long haul.
Ryanair has twice bid for control of Aer Lingus in the past. Brussels blocked the first bid in 2007 and Ryanair withdrew a second in 2008 in anticipation it would be blocked.
The European Commission is in the second phase of its investigation after issuing a preliminary statement saying: “On a large number of European routes, mainly out of Ireland, the two airlines are each other’s closest competitors and barriers to entry appear to be high.
“The takeover could therefore lead to the elimination of competition on a large number of these routes.”
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