Irish low-cost airline, Ryanair, has announced additional flights between the UK and Ireland for the coming winter.
The additional daily return flight to Dublin from Stansted and four other UK airports is aimed at offsetting the concerns of competition authorities’ about Ryanair’s stake in Aer Lingus, the Irish airline said.
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said that competition has intensified in the six-and-a-half years that Ryanair has held its stake, which has led to the introduction of additional flights. He has attempted to take over the rival company on three occasions, but he has been rejected each time by the European commission.
The announcement of additional services comes ahead of a UK Competition Commission ruling that is expected by August 13, and which is likely to order Ryanair to reduce its 29 percent shareholding to protect passenger interests. The competition inquiry is ‘politically motivated’ and we will appeal any ruling against it, O’Leary said. ‘One way or another it’s going to be in courts for the next five years,’ he added.
A provisional ruling in May claimed that Ryanair’s minority stake could harm competition on UK-Ireland routes and block any purchase of Aer Lingus by other airlines. Ryanair has offered to sell its entire stake to any airline offering a full takeover of Aer Lingus, in a bid to stop any ruling forcing it to reduce its stake.
However, Christoph Mueller, chief executive of Aer Lingus, said: ‘The whole argument of Ryanair is that they have no influence [on Aer Lingus] and now they want to sell 80 percent of the company – that is an irony.’
Though a significant group of American passengers travel to continental Europe via Dublin, inbound UK passengers are on the decrease, Mueller said. He also said that the British Airways’ increased capacity on the Dublin-Heathrow route was ‘clearly over and above what that market could afford.’
Around 80 percent of the eight million passengers flying from the UK to Ireland annually fly on Aer Lingus or Ryanair, he said.