Walsh rules out BA bid for State's 25% share of Aer Lingus
WILLIE WALSH yesterday definitively ruled out buying Aer Lingus or bidding for the Government’s 25 stake when it is put up for sale.
Speaking to The Irish Times after receiving the RDS’s gold medal for industry and commerce, Mr Walsh also said IAG would not lodge an objection with the European Commission to Ryanair’s latest offer for Aer Lingus.
When asked if he was definitively ruling himself out of acquiring Aer Lingus, Mr Walsh said, “Yes”.
“We will not bid to acquire Aer Lingus; definitely not,” he said.
Or the Government’s stake? “No, we won’t do that either. We [BA] want to fly from Heathrow to Dublin. Potentially we could do Cork as well. We’re doing it from Belfast.
“We would potentially do transatlantic flying but we wouldn’t see flying between Dublin and holiday destinations as being core to us.”
On Ryanair’s offer for Aer Lingus, which is the subject of a detailed phase two investigation by the commission, Mr Walsh said it would be hypocritical of him to object to the takeover.
“It would be hypocritical and cynical of me to say that the arguments that I made in support of our recent takeover of BMI don’t apply in the Ryanair-Aer Lingus case,” he explained.
“The industry has to consolidate. In a relatively small market like Ireland, the idea that you have to have two domestic carriers competing with one another doesn’t make sense. We don’t have that in the UK now. BMI was the UK competitor to BA.”
Mr Walsh said a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus might not be a bad thing for Irish consumers.
“I’ve no doubt that if [Michael] O’Leary got his hands on Aer Lingus that he would look to expand the long-haul offering because that’s the bit he hasn’t done yet.
“So if Ireland wants flights to San Francisco I would argue that there’s probably a greater chance of getting that with O’Leary in charge of the whole lot rather than the current environment.”
IAG’s largest subsidiaries are British Airways and Iberia in Spain.
BA plans to double the number of flights from Dublin to Heathrow to eight a day from next month.
Mr Walsh said early bookings for these extra flights have been “encouraging”.
“This gives us better frequencies of services, better connections to our long-haul flights at Heathrow and we’re offering a full service to customers. We’ll have a business class cabin if that is what the customer wants.”
Mr Walsh would consider flying to Dublin from London City Airport, where its regional arm BA City Flyer operates.
“One of the main connections to Dublin would be financial services. Once you see that pick up again I would expect to see a lot of traffic between the two cities. That would give us a good reason to launch. We’ll keep an eye on it.”