Irish government to protect Heathrow slots in Aer Lingus sale

The Irish government has pledged to protect Aer Lingus’s lucrative landing slots at Heathrow Airport in the likely event of the sale of its stake in the airline. British Airways owner, IAG's, latest bid for the State’s 25.1pc share in the Irish airline could net around €325m.

Aer Lingus planes at Dublin Airport.

Aer Lingus planes at Dublin Airport. Image by Artur Widak/PA Wire

The board of Aer Lingus has said it is willing to recommend to shareholders that they accept a €1.3 billion offer, or €2.55 per share, for the company, the Irish radio and television network, RTE reports. Aer Lingus said today that its board notes IAG's intentions regarding the future of the company, in particular that Aer Lingus would operate as a separate business with its own brand, management and operations.

However, there are concerns the sale would see Aer Lingus lose key landing and take off slots in London’s Heathrow Airport. The Irish deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste), Joan Burton, has stressed that direct flights in and out of Ireland are crucial to the success of the country’s tourism and of “vital importance” to attracting investment into Ireland. She said the Heathrow slots would be to “the fore of the Government’s mind” in this situation while Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government would take “huge care” before accepting any bid for its share in the airline, the Irish Independent reports.

“Connectivity is extremely important and the one that’s most frequently looked at is the Heathrow slots,” he said. “If any bid comes in it’s not just the value to the taxpayer of the stake itself, it’s how fundamental our ability is to trade with the outside world,” he added. Minister Donohoe also said it was of “vital consideration” that people are able to “flow freely” with Ireland and the rest of the world. He said it was also important to protect the Aer Lingus brand and provide jobs security for the airline’s staff.

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