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Airlines' high jinks would be missed after takeover


Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

The Irish aviation industry is providing interesting headlines at the minute, as IAG's proposed takeover of Aer Lingus becomes mired in debate.

Some have even described the wranglings in the Republic over the proposal as 'parish pump politics', with politicians making capital out of the inevitable and emotive reservations which arise with such a seismic deal.

These hinge on the precious nature of links with Heathrow for a regional airport like Shannon Airport in Limerick, which temporarily lost out on its Heathrow link when the airline first started operating from Belfast in 2008.

The anxieties are understandable and are also felt, albeit to a lesser degree, in Northern Ireland - with the First and deputy First Ministers and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers all speaking out about the importance for Ireland's links with the outside world of the valuable Aer Lingus slots in Heathrow.

In the south, there are also fears of wholesale job losses in the target airline, with opponents citing the 2,500 job losses inflicted on Iberia Airlines when it was taken over by IAG in a £5.3bn deal. If we think the present Irish opposition is vociferous, the Spanish opposition to IAG was infinitely more intense and passionate.

In 2013 strikers screamed 'British go home' during some protests against the deal - an action unlikely to be replicated in Ireland over the present proposals. Ryanair, a substantial shareholder in Aer Lingus, has largely kept its views to itself. Yesterday, as IAG chief Willie Walsh continued a two-day campaign to persuade Irish politicians and stakeholders of IAG's bona fides, Ryanair had its own setback. The company, which has a 29% shareholding in Aer Lingus, lost its latest attempt to overthrow an order by the UK's competition watchdog.

The no-frills airline says that the IAG bid has muddied the waters over the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) ruling that it must sell its Aer Lingus stake. Ryanair argues that IAG's overtures to Aer Lingus disprove the CMA view that Ryanair's share has prevented other airlines from bidding for the flag carrier.

The interplay between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has long been a source of intrigue and would definitely be missed after a successful IAG takeover.

Belfast Telegraph