Airline shares take off on Mannion’s departure

AER Lingus shares jumped 7% yesterday after its chief executive Dermot Mannion resigned and Ryanair called for the airline to appoint union chief David Begg as chief executive.

Mr Mannion was due to announce his resignation today but the airline brought the announcement forward following media speculation at the weekend.

It has appointed an international recruitment firm to appoint Mr Mannion’s successor. No time-line has been put in place for the recruitment process, according to an Aer Lingus spokesman.

From today, Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington will assume executive responsibility until a new chief executive has been appointed.

Ryanair, which is the largest Aer Lingus shareholder said given the fact that “the unions and Government control the board and management of Aer Lingus” the airline should appoint Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) president David Begg, who is an Aer Lingus board member.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “No worthwhile chief executive would wish to work for a company like Aer Lingus where the vested interests of Government and the trade unions repeatedly frustrates or gets rid of effective management and destroys shareholder value.”

Mr Mannion was in the position a year longer than his predecessor, British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh. He was the 10th Aer Lingus chief in 16 years.

NCB Stockbrokers economist Neil Glynn said that while Mr Mannion’s position may have become untenable following recent events, his departure adds to the uncertainty over the development of Aer Lingus.

Analysts said yesterday that Mr Mannion’s sudden departure could suggest he is tired of battling Ryanair at home and EasyJet and others abroad.

In a statement by Aer Lingus, it said it would like to thank Dermot for his “significant contribution” to the group over the past four years.

“We would like to record our appreciation for his loyalty and dedication to Aer Lingus,” it said.

Mr Mannion meanwhile said it had been “a privilege” to serve as Aer Lingus chief executive.

When Sligo-born Mannion joined Aer Lingus in 2005, leaving his position as president of support services at Emirates Airlines, he wrote a letter to Aer Lingus staff telling them it was the only airline he would have left his present job to join.

Mr Mannion, 51, is a trained accountant. He was with Emirates for 18 years and also helped to rescue Sri Lankan Airlines from bankruptcy.

Under Mr Mannion, Aer Lingus expanded beyond Dublin with the introduction of bases at Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2007 and London Gatwick this month.


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