AER Lingus passenger numbers plunged almost 9% last month as analysts warn that a third Ryanair bid could be on the cards.
The former state airline said total passenger numbers in June were 941,000, a fall of 8.6% compared with the same month last year.
The General Court of the EU ruled this week that the 2007 decision by European anti-trust officials in the case of Ryanair merging with Aer Lingus is valid. It also ruled that Ryanair can continue to hold its near 30% stake in Aer Lingus.
Analysts said because this latest ruling only pertains to the 2007 anti-trust decision, Ryanair could still make an offer to buy Aer Lingus. However, one analyst said it would need to obtain the Government’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus and would still need anti-trust approval.
Davy analyst, Joshua Goldman, said: “This court decision leaves the situation unchanged, and implies that a change in the Irish aviation market would be necessary for Ryanair to successfully merge with Aer Lingus, ie to avoid having any future takeover vetoed by the EU.”
Figures released by Aer Lingus showed short-haul passengers were 849,000 in June, down 7.8% on last year, while long-haul passengers were 92,000, a 15.6% fall. The airline’s load factor – the proportion of seats filled – was 82.1%.
“As short-haul service last year was at break-even, most of the loss reported last financial year was from the long-haul operations. Thus, the strong long-haul load factor is very encouraging and may imply upward pricing pressure on long-haul fares,” said Mr Goldman.
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