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Officials to meet IAG again as bid for Aer Lingus continues

Minister for Transport wants five-year pledge on Heathrow slots extended

Willie Walsh: the IAG chief executive has pledged to maintain Aer Lingus flights from the State to Heathrow for five years. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/PhotoCall Ireland

Government officials could meet representatives of International Airlines Group (IAG) again next week as talks over the €1.36-billion bid for Aer Lingus continue.

IAG last week met members of a Government-appointed interdepartmental body to discuss the conditions under which the Coalition would be prepared to sell the State’s 25.1 per cent stake in the airline.

The sides are due to resume talks shortly and it is possible they could meet again next week. Some observers had expected a meeting to take place today but it is understood no meeting has been scheduled.

The Government wants to safeguard services between the Republic’s airports and London Heathrow.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has pledged to maintain Aer Lingus flights from the State to the UK hub for five years.

However Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe has said that the Coalition wants the guarantee extended beyond that period. The talks hinge on that and other related issues.

Aer Lingus’s success in capturing a growing share of the market for flights between Europe and north America is a key factor in drawing the IAG to the airline.

The Irish airline’s chief revenue officer, Mike Rutter, told a conference yesterday that this part of its business is now “robust” as a result of the company’s success in attracting travellers from outside its traditional market.

Mr Rutter told the Capa Centre for Aviation chief executives’ conference in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, that half of the airline’s transatlantic business comes from passengers transferring to its services from flights in Europe and the US.

“That has transformed the transatlantic business, which is now very robust,” he said.

Mr Rutter pointed out that the airline could not rely simply on transatlantic traffic from the Irish market to sustain those long-haul operations.

Vincent Harrison, managing director of Dublin Airport, told the conference the airport is in the top 20 in Europe, it is number five or six in terms of links between north America and Europe.

He pointed out that the airport’s business was expanding beyond serving passengers travelling point-to-point traffic from Ireland.