Ryanair could be in line to buy Heathrow landing rights
O’Leary says regulators could demand sale if IAG buys Aer Lingus
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has signalled his company could buy any of Aer Lingus’s Heathrow landing rights. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has signalled his company could buy any Heathrow landing rights that are put up for sale if International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) bids again for Aer Lingus.
Aer Lingus rejected two takeover approaches from IAG last month but industry observers say a deal is still possible.
Mr O’Leary believes that if such a deal were to go ahead EU competition regulators could demand that IAG offload some of its routes between Ireland and Heathrow airport, as both its subsidiary BA and Aer Lingus operate these services.
“We would be willing to participate in that,” he said, adding that BA was prepared to take similar steps when Ryanair made its third bid to buy Aer Lings in 2012.
At that time BA agreed to buy 20 of Aer Lingus’s 24 landing slots at Heathrow to allay the European Commission’s concerns that a Ryanair takeover would reduce competition on flights between Ireland and Britain.
Ryanair is awaiting a British court of appeal ruling on its challenge to an order from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it cut its Aer Lingus stake to 5 per cent.
Mr O’Leary argued that IAG’s interest has blown the CMA’s claim that Ryanair’s 29.8 per cent stake in Aer Lingus deterred potential bids for the airline “out of the water”.
Meanwhile, he made it clear that Ryanair is still interested in launching a low-cost transatlantic operator. The 737 Max craft that his company has ordered from Boeing will be capable of flying from Ireland to the east coast of north America, but Mr O’Leary stressed that he wanted large aircraft capable of longer trips that would link “10 to 15 large European cities with 10 to 15 large US cities”.
Ryanair is taking delivery of 380 new craft, including 200 737 Maxs, from Boeing between now and 2024.