Paschal Donohoe: Aer Lingus deal won’t weaken Heathrow slot guarantee

Legal guarantees securing Heathrow routes to Cork and Shannon airports will not be weakened by a European Commission ruling on connectivity between London and Ireland in the wake of the Aer Lingus takeover, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has pledged.

The minister was speaking after Ryanair said it would bid for Heathrow slots which the group IAG must give up as a condition of the Aer Lingus deal.

Mr Donohoe said the move would not adversely impact on Heathrow slots to Dublin, Cork, and Shannon.

“Because of the way the commission have made the decision, the first thing that has happened here is that the legal guarantees that we have secured in relation to Heathrow have not been affected in any way — obviously access in and out of Heathrow is crucial.

“The decision the commission has made in relation to Gatwick has said routes between Dublin, Belfast, and Gatwick would have to be continued and could be the subject of a tendering process if another airline wanted to compete on those routes.

“The routes from Cork, Shannon to Heathrow are guaranteed as part of the legal agreements that I expect to be ratified and the commission have made clear that they would look for access on those routes, in other words the routes between Dublin, Belfast and Gatwick, to be maintained, looking potentially at other airlines being involved in supplying those services,” he said.

Clare TD Michael McNamara, who was expelled from the parliamentary Labour Party for voting against selling off the Government’s 25.1% stake in Aer Lingus to IAG, has warned that the British-Airways-led consortium may look at using the Heathrow slots for other routes .

He said he does not have confidence in the legality of the guarantees the Government insists cover the Heathrow routes.

Ryanair moved quickly to bid for the Gatwick routes in light of the EU ruling.

“We welcome the proposals by IAG that they would surrender some slots in Gatwick. We will certainly be bidding for the slots and we would certainly want to expand services we offer at Gatwick,” said Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary.

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Travel Agent: ITAA