Ryanair backs rival Mueller's €1.5m pay in surprise move
At the Aer Lingus annual general meeting, Ryanair used its near 30pc stake to support a resolution to approve the pay received by Aer Lingus directors for 2013.
That ensured a narrow majority voted in favour of the pay and pension hike.
The decision by Ryanair to back Mr Mueller's pay is even more surprising because the remuneration received by the Aer Lingus chief executive included a €400,000 bonus for having successfully fought the latest takeover attempt by Ryanair.
It was also expected that Ryanair would vote against Mr Mueller's pay package as the Government, which controls 25.1pc of the airline, decided not to approve the resolution.
That was a highly embarrassing and serious rebuke for Aer Lingus.
The Government objected to the €175,000 in pension contributions he received last year – when thousands of current and former Aer Lingus employees are facing cuts to their pension entitlements due to a near €800m deficit at a defined benefit scheme known as the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS).
Outside the Radisson Blu hotel at Dublin Airport where the AGM was taking place, up to 40 protesters voiced their anger at the pension crisis.
Former Aer Lingus worker Elaine Solan said she believed Mr Mueller should hand back the increased pension contribution he received in 2013.
"There is no doubt. We will fight and see this right through. Mr Mueller better think again because he's picking on the wrong gang," she said.
Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington said it was not yet known what cuts might be imposed by the pension trustee on workers' entitlements.
"But they would be receiving a much larger cut if Aer Lingus wasn't in a position to offer to put €140m into the pension plan to try and help it, so they should consider that."
He also defended Mr Mueller's pay award, pointing out that the airline chief had put the airline on a profitable footing.