Commerce in for bumpy landing
Published 18/12/2012 | 05:00
RYANAIR'S plan to sell off most of Aer Lingus's valuable landing slots at Heathrow if it takes over the airline makes for a good story, but could be a worrying loss for the economy in the long term.
There is still a long way to go in this process and nothing is guaranteed. Ryanair's efforts to deal with EU competition issues are already seen as much more comprehensive than previous efforts.
No matter how sceptical commentators are about Michael O'Leary's plan, the takeover of Aer Lingus is not dead by any means.
However, the plan to sell the slots would be a loss for the nation as much as the airline. For 50 years, an Irish airline has had a presence at Heathrow.
By selling 20 of 24 slots to British Airways, the country would risk losing a presence at the main airport for the centre of commerce in western Europe.
It could also have a detrimental effect on commerce in Ireland. BA currently offers up to eight flights a day from Heathrow. Aer Lingus runs a maximum of 13 a day.
Under the proposal, BA would take on the Aer Lingus flights for a minimum of three years but could then use the slots for other purposes, such as higher-margin long haul flights.
Fewer flights to Ireland will inevitably mean less business coming here, and that would be a huge loss for the country.