Now he might want the former Irish flag carrier again – but only to use it as a potential Trojan Horse in a bid to get his hands on the British airline, British Midland.
Reports indicate that while O’Leary, who runs the budget giant Ryanair, is still saying that he is not interested in securing a controlling interest in Aer Lingus – Ryanair already owns close to 30 percent of Aer Lingus – he might be tempted if the Irish government asks him to bail out the troubled carrier.
O’Leary indicated to the Sunday Tribune newspaper that if the Irish government and the European Union no longer objected to a link on competition grounds, Ryanair could buy Aer Lingus and use it as a vehicle to buy British Midland, thus getting its hands on the latter’s valuable landing slots at London’s Heathrow airport.
“Why couldn’t Aer Lingus buy BMI (British Midland) and expand at Heathrow?” O’Leary said to the paper.
He said Aer Lingus would then continue to fly into “primary airports” like Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle in Paris, with Ryanair servicing “secondary” airports.
Lufthansa, former employer of new Aer Lingus chief executive, Christoph Mueller, is the current controlling owner of British Midland or BMI as it is known.
The German airline is apparently considering a sale of its British offshoot.
Aer Lingus, meanwhile, is currently moving towards big staff and route cuts including a scrapping of the direct service linking both New York and Boston with Shannon.
It is likely that there would be considerable resistance to a Ryanair buyout from a variety of other Aer Lingus shareholders, including possibly the Irish government which holds a roughly 25 percent stake.
But the more Aer Lingus’s financial situation worsens, the more vulnerable it is to a takeover bid, not least one by Ryanair.
Meanwhile, O’Leary is set to fulfill a pledge and give away planeloads of free seats, 1.1 million of them to be precise.
The never publicity shy O’Leary vowed that for every issue he had with a BBC documentary program on Ryanair, the airline would give away 100,000 free seats.
The “Panorama” program, entitled “Why Hate Ryanair,” was aired last week and it was less than flattering in its treatment of Ryanair and its boss.
Ryanair came up with eleven specific objections, ergo the 1.1 million free seat bonanza which will apply to European flights in November and December.
O’Leary, separately, has indicated an interest in starting up a new airline to operate transatlantic services, but that move would presumably be unnecessary if he ever secures control of Aer Lingus.
Ryanair operates a fleet far larger than Aer lingus and by next year will have over 200 planes servicing its European routes. And the O’Leary-run carrier is set to grow even larger with an expected order (probably from Boeing) of 200 aircraft by the end of this year.