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Aer Lingus and British Airways 'will continue' to fly from Belfast following IAG takeover

BY JOHN MULGREW

Aer Lingus will continue to operate its daily flights from Belfast City Airport for at least five years following a takeover from International Airlines Group (IAG), the airline has said.

And IAG boss Willie Walsh has said British Airways will also “continue to serve” the Belfast market, following a takeover of the Irish state carrier.

IAG now looks set to take over Aer Lingus after the Irish government gave the green light to a €1.4bn (£1.03bn) bid.

Dublin's Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government - which owns a 25% stake in the national flag carrier - was supporting the proposed deal after seeking reassurances and commitments.

"IAG has provided additional information and certain commitments in relation to its proposal," he said.

"Following detailed consideration of this and all of the issues surrounding a potential disposal of the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus, the Government has decided that it will support IAG's proposal."

It has also vowed that Aer Lingus will keep existing slots at Heathrow, continue routes between Heathrow and Dublin, Cork and Shannon for the next seven years, as well as retaining its corporate brand.

The Aer Lingus head office will remain in Dublin, under the agreement.

Aer Lingus has two planes based at Belfast City in the winter, rising to three in the summer – out of a fleet of 47.

It currently has a three times daily service to Heathrow, in competition with the six times daily service offered by IAG-owned BA.

It’s been suggested that it’s unlikely to continue two separate links by Aer Lingus and Heathrow but will instead give the route over to BA or Aer Lingus.

And now the takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG has been left hinging on the next move by Ryanair - now "kingmaker" in the deal due to its near-30% stake in the carrier.

But the low-cost airline, headed by Michael O'Leary, was keeping its cards close to its chest, saying it had yet to receive an offer despite the announcement on Tuesday that terms had been agreed by the Aer Lingus board.

Ryanair could choose to "play hard ball" and force IAG to return with a higher bid for all shareholders, according to one broker.

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