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Thursday 14 December 2017

Aer Lingus buyout remains stuck on Heathrow slots

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The future use of critical take-off and landing slots controlled by Aer Lingus at Heathrow Airport remains a key sticking point for a steering group advising the Government on whether it should sell its 25.1pc stake in the airline.

But while the group is believed to be close to finalising a report for the Government on the proposed Aer Lingus takeover, the largest union at the airline said it was still not satisfied with assurances provided to date by IAG or Aer Lingus on crucial issues such as jobs.

Matt Staunton, the national secretary with Impact, told the Irish Independent the union remained unconvinced about the plans since its meeting with IAG boss Willie Walsh and Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh in February.

"There has been no progress on assurances," Mr Staunton insisted.

Mr Walsh said that while there would be a small number of job losses initially at Aer Lingus, more than 500 jobs could then be created as it expands transatlantic services at the Irish airline.

Impact and Siptu have both previously warned the Government against sanctioning a takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG without the unions being first being fully assured about the prospects for Aer Lingus workers and the company itself.

It had previously been anticipated that the Department of Transport, headed by Minister Paschal Donohoe, might have been in a position to receive the steering group report in time to present it to Cabinet at its first post-Easter meeting next Wednesday.

However, the report is not yet complete, the Irish Independent understands, and won't be presented to Cabinet until Tuesday week at the earliest.

Some sources suggested even that timing might slip further. That's because some issues, such as providing the Government with a veto on any future sale of Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow, are certain to require substantial legal analysis before they can be fully addressed.

A spokesman for Mr Donohoe said: "There are a number of outstanding points that are still being clarified and discussions are continuing between the steering group and IAG." It is believed that information is still being exchanged between the steering group and IAG.

The Government's steering group consists of representatives from Credit Suisse, law firm McCann Fitzgerald, and IBI Corporate Finance.

Irish Independent

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