18 JUNE 2012
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Ryanair may be forced to sell its minority stake in Aer Lingus after a decision by the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT), a Government department, to refer the matter to the Competition Commission.
“There is a realistic prospect that its stake has resulted, or will result in, a substantial lessening of competition on a number of Ryanair and/or Aer Lingus routes between the UK and Ireland”, the OFT said in a statement. “They provide the only two scheduled airline services on five routes between the UK and Ireland and are the two most significant scheduled airline operators on the important London to Dublin route. Overall, around 370,000 scheduled air passengers travel between the UK and Ireland every month, with Ryanair and Aer Lingus together carrying over 80%.
Presently Ryanair holds a 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus, a full takeover possibly inducing Michael O’Leary to reinvent the former State airline as a low cost transatlantic carrier.
Unlike the OFT, the Competition Commission can force companies to divest a minority stake if it finds that a full coming together might be detrimental to the public interest. Aer Lingus has supported the OFT move. www.oft.gov.uk