Ryanair given chance to prove Aer Lingus deal case

EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia offered hope. Picture: Reuters
EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia offered hope. Picture: Reuters
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Ryanair has one last chance to argue the merits of its latest attempt to acquire Irish rival Aer Lingus, the European Union’s competitions chief said yesterday as he prepares to decide the deal’s fate.

Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier is making its third takeover bid for Aer Lingus after the European Commission blocked its first attempt in 2007 and Ryanair dropped its second in 2009.

Ryanair submitted a third set of proposals to the EU competition authority last month. Among them were a promise to cede 43 routes to British-based rival Flybe and three of Aer Lingus’s Heathrow routes to British Airways, according to sources. The Commission has since sought feedback from rivals and other interested parties on those proposals.

Asked if Ryanair would need to offer more concessions, or if it still had time to do so, EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: “There is one more time to discuss it.”

The Commission has set a 6 March deadline for a decision. Ryanair has signed a non- binding agreement with British Airways as part of its plan to acquire Aer Lingus. It is now in non-binding talks with Flybe about a transfer of aircraft and operating routes.

A competitions lawyer said striking binding deals with both rivals could tip the Commission’s decision in Ryanair’s favour, as that would show all the carriers are committed to the agreements.

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