Aer Lingus insists it can fly solo as profits surge

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller

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Irish airline Aer Lingus, which is the subject of a €694 million (£600m) approach from budget rival Ryanair, has insisted it can survive on its own after unveiling a jump in full-year profits.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has agreed a plan that would hand 43 short-haul routes to fellow budget airline Flybe if his bid for Aer Lingus succeeds.

Under the deal, Flybe would receive at least nine Airbus aircraft and a cash injection of €100m from Ryanair to set up “Flybe Ireland”, which would serve 34 European destinations.

Flybe’s Scots-born chief Jim French said there were “many hurdles to overcome” before the airline can get off the ground. The European Commission is due to rule on Ryanair’s bid by 6 March.

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said: “It seems to me so far fetched, this proposition, that we don’t bother wasting our time on it.”

The carrier’s profits soared 40.7 per cent to €69.1m for the year to 31 December, as revenues grew 8.2 per cent to €1.4 billion.

Ryanair’s passenger numbers dipped 1 per cent to 4.4 million last month, while rival EasyJet reported a 4 per cent rise to almost 3.9 million.

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