The proposed Aer Lingus takeover offer from the British Airways parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) is expected to come before Cabinet today.
The main item on the agenda is expected to be the retention of the airline’s Heathrow slots, an historic advantage Aer Lingus enjoys over many of its rivals. That is, of course, a hugely important consideration for not just of the airline but the country. Aer Lingus has never been simply a business. Living on an island off an island off a peninsula, it has always had strategic importance as well for the Irish people.
However, just as important is the question of job losses down the line if the takeover goes ahead. As IAG boss Willie Walsh showed when he was CEO of Aer Lingus from 2001 to 2005, he can be ruthless when it comes to cutting costs.
In fairness, his cost cutting at Aer Lingus is considered the reason it survived after 9/11 when other airlines went bust. He was equally unsentimental with his previous acquisitions – such as Veuling and Iberia. Although he maintained their separate identity, jobs were lost at both airlines through a process of rationalisation.
Mr Walsh has not made clear his plans for Aer Lingus so we don’t know whether these will benefit its staff, our economy, our tourism industry, and our air access to the rest of the world. Without this, the Government must hold fast on agreeing to sell off the remnants of a national treasure.
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