Monday 23 October 2017

Aer Lingus stood up

AER Lingus boss Christoph Mueller must feel like the girl who went to the ball -- only to have no one ask her to dance. Last Monday, IAG boss Willie Walsh revealed that his company was not interested in either purchasing Aer Lingus or the Government's 25 per cent stake.

His declaration of non-interest follows similar statements from US carrier JetBlue and Turkish Airlines. And Etihad, which already has 3 per cent of Aer Lingus, has indicated that while it might be interested, CEO James Hogan seems determined that the relationship between the two airlines will be a chaste one.

In truth Turkish Airlines, JetBlue and Etihad were always long shots for Aer Lingus, now trying to fend off the third Ryanair bid in less than six years. As non-EU airlines, they are barred from buying more than 50 per cent of Aer Lingus under EU aviation policy.

However IAG, formed by last year's merger between BA and Iberia, is a very different kettle of fish. It would face no such bar. But Mr Walsh now says his company isn't interested.

It wasn't just that Mr Walsh stood up Aer Lingus -- it was where he chose to make his remarks. He was in Belfast to relaunch the BA London-Belfast route after a gap of 11 years. With BA also about to re-enter the London-Dublin route later this year after a gap of 25 years, IAG clearly feels it doesn't need Aer Lingus.

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