Flybe chief says UK carrier is a credible alternative to Aer Lingus
The chairman and chief executive of Flybe, Jim French, has insisted the UK carrier would be a credible alternative to Aer Lingus in the event it secures control of about half the former state-owned carrier's short-haul routes.
Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr French said that a core difference Flybe would offer would be increased frequencies on a number of routes.
He said Flybe would achieve this by using a mix of smaller capacity jet aircraft it has on order with Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, and the existing Airbus aircraft currently used by Aer Lingus.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has offered loss-making Flybe €100m in cash, as well as €50m from forward ticket sales, and 43 existing Aer Lingus short-haul routes as he presses the European Commission to sanction his planned takeover of his rival.
Flybe would establish a company called Flybe Ireland which would acquire the routes and cash from Ryanair for just €1m. It would also be guaranteed a €20m profit in the first year and use the Aer Lingus brand for three years.
Handing over the Aer Lingus routes to Flybe is one of the remedies Ryanair is proposing to competition watchdogs in Brussels in its bid to secure the green light for its third takeover attempt of Aer Lingus. The European Commission will deliver its verdict on March 6.
Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller has insisted Flybe is being used as a pawn in Ryanair's takeover battle and labelled the plans as "ridiculous".
Mr Mueller also insisted that it was Aer Lingus rather than Ryanair that would effectively end up paying for the €694m takeover if it went ahead. Ryanair, which owns about 300 aircraft, could easily sell and lease back the Aer Lingus fleet if it acquires the carrier.
"The entire proposal will be funded and paid for by the Aer Lingus shareholder, not Ryanair's," he claimed. "They can sell the whole fleet. I believe the aircraft will disappear," he predicted, if a takeover went ahead.
Aer Lingus released strong financial figures for 2012 this week. Mr Mueller told the Irish Independent he also sees scope for adding more codeshare agreements with other airlines.
"Since the demise of BMI (which was acquired by British Airways), a lot of carriers have lost a feeder at London Heathrow," he said, adding that there is "increasing demand" for codeshare agreements.
Mr Mueller said he sees scope to sign more agreements such as the deal it recently did with Virgin, where Aer Lingus will operate four aircraft for the UK carrier in a 'wet lease' arrangement. That means Aer Lingus also provides the crew.
He said a service to Canada from Ireland remains top of the wish-list for Aer Lingus.