Ryanair not ruling out appeal if Aer Lingus bid blocked
Ryanair hasn't ruled out making an appeal if the European Commission blocks its latest attempt to buy Aer Lingus.
Deputy chief executive Howard Millar told the Irish Independent that he could not see why Brussels would block Ryanair's efforts to acquire its smaller rival.
However, he said that if its proposed remedies were rejected, Ryanair would have to study the ruling in detail before making any decision.
He said he couldn't predict at this stage whether Ryanair would appeal a decision made against it.
The European Commission's competition watchdog is due to say by March 6 whether or not it will allow Ryanair to proceed with a €694m takeover battle for Aer Lingus.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary said yesterday that two upfront buyers have already agreed to take over and operate a substantial part of the Aer Lingus route network if Ryanair manages to buy the carrier. Ryanair already owns close to 30pc of Aer Lingus.
Mr Millar was speaking as Ryanair delivered a strong set of results for its third financial quarter and said it now expects to make a full-year profit of about €540m – 7pc ahead of last year and more than the €490m-€520m it had previously expected to make.
It posted an €18.1m profit after tax in the latest quarter – 21pc higher than in the corresponding quarter the previous year. Analysts had expected Ryanair to lose €5m in the three months to the end of December.
Ryanair was boosted by a slightly lower than expected fuel bill and robust passenger numbers. It also kept a tight rein on costs during the period.
Mr Millar said Ryanair laid on 2,000 extra flights in a seven-week period approaching and during Christmas, driven by demand for services to Eastern Europe and also from the UK to destinations such as the Canaries. That meant using some of the 80 aircraft that Ryanair had grounded for the quieter winter season.
Ryanair operated a total of 100,000 flights in the 12-week period to the end of December. Mr Millar said the performance out of Dublin had been "so-so".
Total revenue rose 15pc to €969m, with the average fare having risen 8pc in the period. Mr Millar said two percentage points of that increase were due to stronger sterling in the quarter than a year earlier.
Scheduled revenue from tickets was 12.1pc higher at €748.7m, while ancillary revenue – which includes income from items sold on board such as beverages and food – was up 24pc, at €220.1m.
Mr Millar said ancillary revenues were boosted by increased demand for priority boarding.
He declined to say what percentage of passengers were opting for the service, but said demand has beaten expectations. Ryanair allows 33 seats of 189 on each aircraft to be reserved.
But Mr Millar said there were no plans to increase this at the moment. Doing so could hamper Ryanair's ability to turn around each aircraft within 25 minutes, he said.