An unchecked takeover of the airline by International Airlines Group would have a “detrimental effect” on consumers, TDs were told.
Joe Thompson, Virgin Atlantic director of network and alliances, told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that the airline had no interest in buying Aer Lingus.
He said half a million customers travelling between Ireland and long haul destinations go through a British airport. Virgin Atlantic services 100,000 of these.
“Good air connectivity between Ireland and the UK enables this traffic to flow, in combination with an inter-line agreement between Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic.”
This deal facilitated competitive fares and connections, he said. But destinations such as the Caribbean and Hong Kong through Virgin could be threatened, TDs heard.
“If IAG’s proposed acquisition of Aer Lingus is allowed to progress unchecked, this choice is at risk. IAG will have a monopoly on flights between Ireland and the UK that enable the vast majority of these connections. And it will be able to withdraw from inter-line agreements with airlines that provide it with competition for connecting passengers.”
The airline questioned what legal guarantees were in place from IAG on flights between Ireland and the UK. Any commitments needed to apply to BA which is under IAG, it was added.
Mr Thompson insisted that with any IAG takeover, assurances were needed it would continue to work with Aer Lingus’ existing partners, such as Virgin Atlantic. But he also warned: “This deal gives IAG the opportunity to squeeze airlines like Virgin Atlantic out of the Irish market and funnel consumers onto its own long haul services.”
Mr Thompson agreed with one committee member that the IAG takeover would have a “detrimental effect” on consumers.