Ryanair was notified this morning (12 Feb) at a State of Play meeting with the EU Commission, that the EU Commission intends to prohibit Ryanair’s offer for Aer Lingus, despite the fact that Ryanair has met every competition concern raised in the EU’s Statement of Objections and during the review process, including providing the EU – at its request – with irrevocable commitments from not one, but two, upfront buyers to eliminate all competitive overlaps between Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
IAG has committed that they would take over divestments of Ryanair’s and Aer Lingus’ entire London-Gatwick operations, and Flybe has committed to take over 43 Aer Lingus UK and European routes.
Given that the EU Commission recently approved IAG’s acquisition of BMI at London-Heathrow on the basis of three year commitments, the EU’s claim that it could not be satisfied of IAG’s and Flybe’s commitments to these Irish routes after three years is another example of the EU holding Ryanair to a much higher standard than any other EU airline. Ryanair’s remedies package is unprecedented. For the first time in EU airline history, Ryanair delivered not one, but two, substantial upfront EU airline buyers who have agreed to come to Ireland to compete against a combined Ryanair/Aer Lingus.
Ryanair has today instructed its lawyers to appeal any prohibition decision to the European Courts.
Ryanair’s Robin Kiely said:
“It appears clear from this morning’s meeting, that no matter what remedies Ryanair offered, we were not going to get a fair hearing and were going to be prohibited regardless of competition rules.
Given Ryanair’s remedies package clearly addresses every issue raised in the EU’s Statement of Objections, any decision to prohibit would be manifestly unfair and in contravention of EU competition rules. Ryanair has no alternative but to appeal any prohibition decision and we expect to get a fair hearing at the European Courts, as we haven’t received one from Commissioner Almunia and his case team. This decision is clearly a political one to meet the narrow, vested interests of the Irish Government and is not based on competition law.”