Sunday 19 January 2020

Aer Lingus vows to expand despite Ryanair takeover threat

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller
Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

AER Lingus needs to expand to ensure its long-term survival and will consider measured asset purchases, according to chief executive Christoph Mueller.

"Specialist niche carriers can survive,” Mr Mueller said today. “And we are specialised in so far as Ireland is an island. Can we survive with the current size? I say we would need some growth. That’s very difficult to achieve organically in our market.”

Mr Mueller told the Irish Independent last week that he’s hopeful the airline will be successful in securing takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow that were owned by bmi and that were made available following the takeover of the UK airline by British Airways earlier this year.

Aer Lingus wants to launch a service between London Heathrow and Edinburgh. Mr Mueller also said that he’d be interested in boosting the Aer Lingus service between London and Belfast.

The Aer Lingus boss also said that it was difficult to see how other airlines would be willing to enter the Irish market to compete on routes serviced by Ryanair as part of the low-cost carrier’s efforts to acquire Aer Lingus. Ryanair has told the European Competition Commission that it will encourage rival airlines to set up bases in Dublin as part of its efforts to persuade Brussels to allow its Aer Lingus takeover.

“Let’s do a reality check,” Mr Mueller said. “Who on earth would voluntarily enter the market to compete with Ryanair? You need to have a cost position which is at least on the same level in order to compete on price. Ryanair is the cost leader in Europe.”

The EU’s Competition Commission is poised to tell Ryanair that the remedies it has already proposed if it’s allowed to buy Aer Lingus are insufficient.

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