UK regulators approve Aer Lingus, CityJet deal

Absence of deal would have led to less choice for consumers, regulators found

CityJet has shifted its service offering to wet leasing for other airlines.

CityJet has shifted its service offering to wet leasing for other airlines.

 

UK regulators have approved Aer Lingus’s plan to take over CityJet’s services from Dublin to London City Airport.

In the absence of the agreement, they found there would be less choice for consumers.

Aer Lingus agreed with the regional carrier to take over scheduled passenger flights on the route in a “wet-lease” arrangement whereby CityJet provided Aer Lingus with aircraft, crew, maintenance services and insurance to operate the route.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK, which seeks to prevent anti-competitive activities, launched an investigation because Aer Lingus acquired CityJet’s landing slots at both London City and Dublin airports under the deal.

“Having conducted a careful investigation,” the CMA cleared the agreement on Friday, noting that in its absence, CityJet’s planes would have moved to other routes leaving consumers worse off.

“The CMA found that CityJet had taken the decision to stop providing services on this route prior to its agreement with Aer Lingus and, while CityJet did not market this business to other airlines, our detailed investigation showed that no other airline would have been interested in taking over the business.”

“For that reason, without the agreement, the assets transferred by CityJet to Aer Lingus would have instead been used to operate other routes, resulting in a loss of capacity and therefore less choice for customers on the London to Dublin route,” the CMA said.

CityJet’s chief commercial officer, Cathal O’Connell, said the company is “pleased”with the finding, adding that its looks forward to “continuing CityJet’s development as the premium wet lease provider to major European airlines”.

The Dublin-London City route has been CityJet’s mainstay since it launched in the 1990s. However, founder and chief executive Pat Byrne shifted the carrier’s focus in recent years from flying scheduled services to wet leasing for other airlines.

This culminated in a deal in June whereby CityJet agreed a “prelude to a merger” with Spanish regional carrier Air Nostrum to bolster its leasing business and attract new contracts in the regional air-travel market.