Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair will never fly transatlantic, reveals chairman

By John Mulligan

Ryanair won't ever fly transatlantic services, the airline's billionaire chairman David Bonderman insisted yesterday.

"We have no interest in flying transatlantic," he told shareholders at the airline's annual general meeting at Dublin Airport yesterday.

Ryanair also announced that it intends to return €398m (£293m) in proceeds from the sale of its near-30% stake in Aer Lingus to shareholders before the end of the calendar year. It sold the Aer Lingus shares to IAG, which has acquired the former Irish state-owned carrier.

Mr Bonderman's seemingly definitive comment comes despite chief executive Michael O'Leary saying that a low-cost transatlantic service would be a medium-term aim for the company.

Mr Bonderman is the co-founder of US private equity giant TPG, formerly Texas Pacific Group. He and TPG backed Ryanair in 1996, the year before it floated on the stock exchange. Mr O'Leary has always stressed that a transatlantic service would be a separate business to Ryanair, unlikely to even use the Ryanair brand.

He has also said that launching it would be dependent on securing long-haul aircraft at cheap prices - something that's impossible right now due to bulging order books at both Airbus and Boeing.

In January, Mr O'Leary said he would be disappointed if the low cost long-haul service wouldn't be able to offer one-way fares to the US from Europe for an average of under €100 (£73.70). He said the aim of the service would be to fly from about 15 European cities to 15 US cities.

Mr O'Leary said yesterday that the airline's previous aim of trying to buy Aer Lingus wasn't to secure ownership of its long-haul operations.

"Aer Lingus' long-haul was the bit we were least interested in," he said. "The attraction nine years ago was to use it to serve primary airports in Europe. We're now doing it with Ryanair."

Ryanair chief financial officer Neil Sorahan also said the airline remained focused on its existing strategy and delivering improvements under its so-called 'Always Getting Better' campaign. "We're very busy working away in the short-haul, which we're very good at," he said. He added that a long-haul service would also have to have a different management team. "Our skill set is very much in the low-cost area. It's pie in the sky stuff. The board is very clear: this is not on our agenda."

Ryanair intends to distribute the €398m in Aer Lingus sale proceeds to shareholders by issuing a 'B' share.

Belfast Telegraph