Friday 15 November 2019

IAG rival goes on the offensive over Aer Lingus deal

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh

Peter Flanagan

ONE of IAG's biggest competitors will ask the EU for guarantees it will be able to compete for Irish passengers ahead of any takeover of Aer Lingus.

Virgin Atlantic, which has fought numerous bitter battles with IAG's British Airways, will meet the Government this week to highlight its concerns about the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus.

Virgin has told the Oireachtas Transport Committee it wants a legally binding commitment on the number of BA and Aer Lingus flights between Ireland and the UK.

The airline will also write to the European Commission this week to seek assurances that it will be able to compete with British Airways and Iberia for Irish passengers who connect through the UK for long-haul travel.

While the commission is very unlikely to take an interest in the issue until a takeover deal is agreed, Virgin's interest at this stage shows the level of opposition IAG and Aer Lingus will face if the two firms do agree to come together.

Virgin wrote to the transport committee last week but the committee replied looking for more detail on it's specific problems. which it has now provided.

Virgin executives and the committee are likely to discuss the matter in person shortly.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said: "It is critical that consumers travelling to and from Ireland can benefit from strong and robust competition".

"Aer Lingus is an important partner to a number of airlines operating out of the UK on long-haul routes, including Virgin Atlantic.

"The competition provided by these partnerships offers a choice of connections to a huge number of customers, something which must be maintained whatever IAG has planned for Aer Lingus.

"We will be providing evidence to the European Commission's competition authority which has one clear question to answer; how are consumers going to be properly protected from a lack of competition and the impact this will have on the price of airline tickets, quality of service and connectivity from Ireland?"

Virgin's intervention is the latest development in a takeover saga that is already entering its third month.

IAG made its initial indicative offer for Aer Lingus in Janaury, and eventually increased this to €2.55 a share, valuing Aer Lingus at €1.4bn. The bid has met with some political opposition.

Irish Independent

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