Sunday 16 June 2019

O'Leary denies reports Ryanair made Norwegian move

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg Finance LP
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg Finance LP
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Ryanair has never made an approach for Norwegian Air and does not intend to, the Irish airline has said - disputing a claim by the chief executive of its rival budget carrier.

"Not last year, not now," Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary insisted yesterday.

Earlier, the Reuters news agency had reported that Ryanair approached Norwegian Air last year with a proposal to take a stake of around 20pc in the Oslo-listed carrier. That report cited a source with close knowledge of the discussion.

Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos agreed there had been contact between the companies and that he brought it up with his airline's board, but declined to discuss any details.

"There is no truth to these claims. We have not made an approach to Norwegian and we have no interest," Ryanair said later in an emailed statement.

Michael O'Leary counter-claimed that Norwegian was "desperately trying to manufacture a mythical interest" in the group.

It's all part of an escalating war of words between Europe's largest and third-largest low-cost airlines dating back at least to last year, when Norwegian confirmed last September that it had recruited 140 pilots from its bigger rival, around the same time Ryanair was being forced to cancel flights because of a pilot-rostering crisis.

More recently, Michael O'Leary has questioned whether Norwegian has a future as a stand-alone airline - a notion rejected by the Nordic carrier.

In the meantime, Aer Lingus owner IAG acquired a 5pc stake in Norwegian, but its approaches for a potentially bigger deal have been rebuffed - to date.

There is widespread speculation IAG boss Willie Walsh will return with a third bid. (Additional reporting Bloomberg/Reuters)

Irish Independent

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