British Airways owner International Airlines Group moved yesterday to try to head off concerns raised by the Irish government over its pursuit of Aer Lingus.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh met with officials in Dublin to reiterate that regional routes between Ireland and Heathrow would be maintained.
He offered a “specific commitment” relating to the operation of slots to serve the Heathrow-Shannon and Heathrow-Cork routes for five years.
The move came in response to concerns raised by the Irish tourism minister
IAG said this was a “sign of confidence” in the routes.
Walsh said he believed that there would be a “compelling commercial case” to continue Aer Lingus flights between Cork and Shannon to Heathrow.
This came at a meeting of the Irish Joint Committee on Transport and Communications in an effort to secure the support of the Irish government which retains a 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus alongside almost 29% held by rival Ryanair.
IAG has bid €1.36 billion for Aer Lingus and claims its proposal offers legally binding commitments that go well beyond the protections currently available to the government in Ireland and would give it an important role in securing the future of Aer Lingus.
IAG said its proposal would secure and strengthen Aer Lingus' long term future and brand as a member of a successful and profitable European airline group, offering “significant benefits” to both the airline and its customers.
The company has “repeatedly highlighted the importance of direct air services and connectivity for investment and tourism in Ireland”.
The proposed commitments would ensure that:
• Aer Lingus' slots at Heathrow cannot be sold, including to other IAG airlines;
• Aer Lingus' name, head office location or place of incorporation in the Republic of Ireland, cannot be changed; and
• The Aer Lingus Heathrow slots would be operated on Irish routes for at least five years. Three daily slots would be operated on Heathrow-Shannon and four daily slots would be operated on Heathrow-Cork.
Walsh said while some jobs would be lost, more would be created, the BBC reported.
"I have heard people say that up to 1,200 jobs could be lost - that's utter nonsense," he told politicians.
"Will there be rationalisation? Yes there will be," he added. "But the real story is about growth."
Walsh said while there would be redundancies, about 500 jobs could be created in Aer Lingus - new pilots, cabin crew, engineers and mechanics - if the takeover was agreed and long-haul aircraft were added to the fleet over the next five years.
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