Ryanair has lost out to rival Easyjet in a bid to buy take-off and landing slots at Gatwick Airport.
Easyjet confirmed it has agreed to buy 25 slot pairs from Flybe for £20m (€23.3m), with the transaction subject to approval from Flybe shareholders.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary confirmed this week that the airline had submitted a bid to buy the Flybe slots at Gatwick, which is Easyjet's biggest base. Ryanair's biggest base is Stansted, and it's about the fourth biggest operator at Gatwick.
Mr O'Leary said that the Gatwick slots that had been put up for sale were attractive.
"We've submitted a bid to Flybe for the slots and I think it would be a material opportunity for us there," he said.
"It's relatively small in our overall universe, but we could connect Gatwick to a number of our European airports if our offer is successful. But we're not going to pay through the roof for them either.
"We don't have to own slots at Gatwick. If we get them at the price we've offered, we'd be very happy to take them. I think we'd make very profitable use of them," he added.
He insisted Ryanair would have been able to offer "real competition" to IAG-owned British Airways and Easyjet at Gatwick.
Easyjet said it would gain control of the new Gatwick slots from summer 2014 and would use them to provide additional frequencies and add new destinations.
"The primary focus for our growth in London for the next few years will be Stansted," added Mr O'Leary. He said the new Stansted owner – Manchester Airports Group – had been a "breath of fresh air".
Flybe is selling the Gatwick slots after the introduction of what it called a "discriminatory pricing regime" at the airport that penalises the operators of smaller aircraft. It said the charges levied on it by Gatwick had jumped 102pc in the last five years.
"It is the view of the board that the increase in charges, combined with the penalistic levels of air passenger duty imposed on UK domestic airlines by successive governments, have resulted in Flybe's services to and from Gatwick becoming unsustainable in the long-term," it said.
It will use the proceeds from the sale to fund an ongoing restructuring of the carrier, which includes jobs losses and delaying new aircraft deliveries.
Flybe currently operates seven routes to Gatwick, including one from Belfast City Airport, which will be terminated next March.
Flybe also operates flights between Dublin and Donegal, Dublin and Exeter. It also flies between Shannon and Glasgow and from Waterford to Manchester and Birmingham.