Ryanair, which owns almost 30% of Aer Lingus, has tried twice to take over its rival but has struggled to overcome opposition from the Government, which holds a quarter of Aer Lingus.
“The Government is broke now, it has to sell its holdings. In the end, it will sell Aer Lingus as well,” O’Leary said in an interview published in daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung yesterday. It could cost as much as €50 billion, or over €11,000 per head of Ireland’s population, to unwind years of reckless lending to developers during the Celtic Tiger boom.
“And I hope, we will buy (Aer Lingus),” O’Leary said, adding he would aim to expand Aer Lingus as quickly as possible following any deal.
“We could, for instance, get access to Charles de Gaulle (airport in Paris) and compete with EasyJet,” he said.
A takeover of Aer Lingus could also increase the likelihood that Ryanair started buying Airbus planes.
“We have no credibility in negotiations with Airbus. They do not believe us that we really want to buy their planes. That will only change if we ownan Airbus carrier such as Aer Lingus,” O’Leary said.
Aer Lingus is believed to be close to reinstating its Shannon/Paris route, which would be a major boost for the airport.
Ryanair will next month cease operating its Shannon to Paris route but a spokeswoman for Aer Lingus said the re-establishment of the route is under review.
However, sources said the airline is very likely to announce it will be reinstating the route shortly. Aer Lingus previously operated a service between Shannon and Paris Charles De Gaulle until October 2001. Four airlines have to date pulled Paris routes from Shannon despite sources saying the routes have always been profitable.
Last month Shannon airport was dealt a blow when Ryanair confirmed it was cutting services there by 21% from November 1 in protest at Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) plans to increase passenger charges at Shannon by €1.53.
A spokesperson said “Shannon Airport is constantly in talks with airlines in relation to potential new routes and route expansion but we do not comment on speculation.”