Tuesday 27 September 2016

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary and IAG's Willie Walsh unite over aviation costs

Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30

(L-R) Air France-KLM Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac speaks at a joint news conference with easyJet Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall, International Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh, Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer Car
(L-R) Air France-KLM Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac speaks at a joint news conference with easyJet Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall, International Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh, Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer Car
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary

Europe's biggest airlines have set aside their usual fierce rivalries to lobby for an easier ride from European policy makers.

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Ryanair's Michael O'Leary and IAG boss Willie Walsh joined the heads of Air France KLM-Group, Lufthansa and Easyjet chief executive Carolyn McCall in Brussels seeking European Union measures to boost efficiency, better regulate airports, lower taxes and prevent air traffic controllers' strikes.

"As the new transport commissioner prepares a new aviation strategy for Europe she must drive more competition, encourage more efficiency and help reduce costs in other parts of our industry - such as monopoly airports and air traffic control providers - and reduce the tax burden on passengers," the airline chief executives said in a joint statement.

European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc is due to publish a suite of aviation measures in the autumn.

"This is the first time we have all joined together," Willie Walsh said at a press briefing to launch the lobbying initiative.

"We need the industry to come together and push harder," he said.

"We believe this is overdue," Lufthansa's Carsten Spohr said.

One issue behind the big push is the fact that European operators have watched the rise of Gulf carriers such as Emirates and Etihad over the past decade, which are seen to have far more supportive home governments - which double as shareholders - than European airlines.

Willie Walsh said IAG has no issue with the Gulf-based airlines, but lambasted the UK government over aviation tax and airport capacity.

Mr Walsh's group is locked in a €1.3bn battle for control of Aer Lingus that is set to be decided by O'Leary's Ryanair, who also attended the launch.

Ryanair is Aer Lingus' biggest shareholder, with an almost 30pc stake in the former flag carrier. Ryanair has been tight-lipped about its plans for the stake, which IAG is offering to buy as part of its takeover of Aer Lingus.

Despite having a cash bid lined up, Ryanair reacted angrily this month after a UK court upheld a competition authority ruling that it must cut its Aer Lingus stake to 5pc, keeping everyone, including Willie Walsh, guessing at the Irish airline's intentions.

Aer Lingus' other big shareholders, the Irish Government with a 25pc stake and Etihad with 5pc, have agreed to sell their shares to IAG. (Additional reporting Bloomberg)

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