Concerns over bid for Aer Lingus

Chambers Ireland has urged the European Commission to reject Ryanair’s takeover proposal for Aer Lingus, saying the €694m deal would be anti-competitive and bad for Irish business.

In a submission to the commission, Chambers raised particular concerns over the future ease of access to Heathrow for Irish business travellers.

“Heathrow is a vital hub for Irish business, offering connectivity to key destinations across the globe. A Ryanair takeover raises major concerns regarding the future of these vital slots and long term access for Irish business users,” Seán Murphy, Chambers Ireland air transport users’ council spokesperson said.

Chambers chief executive Ian Talbot added that choice of service providers was vital in any industry.

In December, the Government rejected Ryanair’s initial plans as not being in the best interest of competition, connectivity and employment for Ireland.

Chambers’ statement coincided with news that Aer Arann has extended its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus for another 10 years.

As part of what it calls “a new beginning“, the regional carrier also said that it will be expanding existing routes, while a restructuring has put the airline on “a strong financial footing”.

Aer Arann has been operating Aer Lingus’s regional routes to secondary British airports since early 2010 and ceased flying under its own name last year. During 2012, regional passenger numbers increased by 32%, with total passenger levels rising by 16% over the past two years. The agreement to operate the Aer Lingus regional service will now continue to the end of 2022. However, Aer Arann refused to comment on how that may be affected were Ryanair to succeed in its takeover of Aer Lingus next month and enter a deal with British carrier, FlyBe.

Yesterday’s announcement also heralded an expansion of Aer Arann’s existing services to Edinburgh and Glasgow and the creation of two new routes from Ireland to Manchester and Birmingham. The new routes will boost Aer Arann’s passengers by 300,000 and bring to 24 the number of routes on its network. A fleet renewal programme will also see Aer Arann take delivery of eight new ATR 72-600 aircraft.

Management aims to double passenger numbers to more than two million within the next five years.

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