Airlines, Buses, Trains

Long-haul appeal of Ryanair’s airline bid

Ryanair will bid to operate 90 planes under the Alitalia brand using existing staff as part of the Italian airline’s restructuring, Michael O’Leary has said.

The Irish carrier has a month to make a binding bid for all or part of the Italian national airline, which has been put under special administration for the second time in less than a decade.

“We will be submitting an offer for the 90 jet aircraft, with their pilots, cabin crew, routes etc,” the Ryanair chief executive told journalists at a briefing in London. However, the offer would be dependent on some redundancies, changes to staff conditions and renegotiation of the leases, he added.

As Ryanair exclusively uses Boeing planes, Alitalia staff would be required to maintain the 90 Airbus planes, he said. Ryanair, which currently only operates short-haul routes, would also take on long-haul routes under the deal, Mr O’Leary said.

“I think one of the aspects of Alitalia that is really attractive is the long-haul fleet. There is the capacity to grow very strongly,” he said.

Ryanair would be interested in bidding for the whole of Alitalia, which has about 120 aircraft, but such a deal would probably be blocked by regulators because it would leave Ryanair in control of more than 50 per cent of the Italian market, Mr O’Leary said.

“We’d be very willing to buy Alitalia. But I suspect . . . given we’re the number one airline in Italy we’d be blocked under EU competition rules,” he said.

Ryanair is one of about ten parties to have expressed an interest in a bid for all or part of the carrier. Mr O’Leary said that Alitalia would be likely to be broken up by whoever bought it and that any takeover would include competition remedies.

Ryanair also announced six new routes from London as part of its biggest ever flight schedule from the capital. The airline will serve five new destinations from Stansted: Aalborg, Denmark, Dusseldorf, Weeze and Frankfurt in Germany and Oradea, Romania and Pardubice in the Czech Republic, while flights to Bydgoszcz, Poland, will begin from Luton.

The airline expects that 24.8 million passengers will travel on Ryanair flights to or from its three London airports this year, including Gatwick. Mr O’Leary said that the Dublin-based carrier was “planning on the basis that somebody in the British government will sort out Brexit”, but added that he did not have “great faith in them at the moment”.

He said: “We’re going to continue to invest in the UK and grow jobs here.”

Mr O’Leary warned that flights between the UK and the EU would be grounded in summer 2019 if no agreement was reached as part of the Brexit negotiations by September next year. “We need to know six months before March 2019,” he said. “If there isn’t the likelihood of an agreement there will be skin and hair flying. People trying to book their holidays for summer 2019 here in the UK this time next year . . . the options will be driving to Scotland or getting a ferry to Ireland.”

Mr O’Leary denied accusations from his rival Easyjet that he was scaremongering and suggested that European airlines were going to use Brexit to gain an advantage over British airlines.

The single market for aviation, created in the 1990s, means that there are no commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU. The UK aviation industry has called for the liberal market to continue after Brexit.

In a speech in July, Chris Grayling, the British transport secretary, said that it was “one of our priorities” to secure the best possible access to European aviation markets, adding that it was in the interests of all countries to “seek open, liberal arrangements” on the issue.