The Irish Parliament, the Dail, approved the sale of Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group yesterday despite rowdy scenes as opposition politicians accused the coalition government of seeking to “ram through” the deal.
IAG welcomed the decision after having a €1.35-billion takeover bid accepted by the Aer Lingus board on Tuesday.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent IAG, will present a formal offer to Ryanair for its near 30% stake in Aer Lingus within days.
Walsh said he did not expect Ryanair to stand in the way of the takeover.
He confirmed the deal could see services extended to UK airports not currently served by BA from Heathrow.
In an interview with Bloomberg Business, Walsh said: “We see opportunities for Aer Lingus to serve airports and regions outside London where BA can’t serve because of restrictions on slots at Heathrow”
Walsh told Bloomberg: “There are several cities in the UK not connected to Heathrow, because Heathrow is full and there are no slots available.”
He cited the examples of Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool and said: “You’ll be able to connect people in those cities over Dublin to the transatlantic [routes] where they are not going to be connected over Heathrow.”
Walsh added: “We never saw this as a deal we needed to do. It’s a deal we’ve wanted to do.
“We were attracted to Aer Lingus because it’s a very strong brand, particularly in the UK, Ireland and the US. It’s a well-run company and it has opportunities to grow.
“When you combine that with the benefit of Dublin and Shannon airports where they have new infrastructure and US customs and border pre-clearance, it’s a perfect match.”
He insisted: “It’s a great opportunity for IAG and Aer Lingus on transatlantic [routes].
“With another strong brand, we can strengthen our position there, but strengthen it in a market that is growing, in a market where there are strong natural traffic flows from the US.”
Questioned on the implications for jobs at Aer Lingus, Walsh said: “The story is really positive because we want to grow the airline and we want to expand the network, add more aircraft, more pilots, more cabin crew, more engineers.
“We expect to create 150 net new positions by the end of 2016, and 630 by 2020.”
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