Ryanair and Aer Lingus are braced for a European court ruling that could open the way for the budget airline to make a third bid for its older Irish rival.
The airlines are awaiting a decision from the European General Court on cases the two have brought separately over the first of two takeover bids Ryanair has made for Aer Lingus since 2006.
The first bid by Ryanair, Aer Lingus’ largest shareholder, was blocked in 2007 when the European Commission ruled it would have led to a near-monopoly in the Irish market and damaged the interests of passengers.
A second tilt in late 2008 failed after the government, Aer Lingus's next largest shareholder with a 25% holding, said it undervalued the airline.
Ryanair appealed against the Commission’s decision to oppose its first bid, which was the only proposed airline merger to be blocked by the Commission before or since.
A ruling either way in each case is potentially significant, but if Ryanair is successful it will revive questions about whether it would launch a third bid for Aer Lingus.