Shares in UK regional airline Flybe soared over 33% after Aer Lingus-owner IAG reportedly joined the race to buy the business.
Flybe has been in talks with multiple parties to sell itself as it grapples with falling demand, higher fuel costs and sterling’s weakness. On Friday it said Virgin was a potential buyer.
Stobart Air, which operates the Aer Lingus Regional service, has also been mentioned as a potential suitor. The UK media has IAG as the frontrunner, however. Flybe has also said it would consider other options besides a sale, such as further reductions in capacity and costs.
Ryanair and EasyJet have publicly said they are not interested in acquiring Flybe. However, Goodbody aviation analyst Mark Simpson still expects whoever buys the airline to carve up its assets, adding that Ryanair is still likely to be attracted by some of its slots most notably those at Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Amsterdam/ Schiphol.
Flybe has a third of the slots at Birmingham, 19% of those at Manchester, 18% at Edinburgh and 2% of landing area at Amsterdam. Flybe’s potential role as a feeder service to transatlantic routes has also been suggested as an attraction for international airlines. Mr Simpson said a successful IAG bid for Flybe would not have any knock-on effect for Aer Lingus in this regard, but could benefit the group’s Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling.
Meanwhile, new figures show Ireland West Airport Knock saw a record 750,000 passengers pass through it last year.
Flybe’s services to Birmingham and Edinburgh reached record levels while Aer Lingus recorded the highest number of passengers using its Knock-Gatwick service since the route started in 2009.
Additional reporting Reuters