The European Commission has today (27 February) announced that it is blocking Ryanair's buy-out of its rival Irish airline Aer Lingus.
The decision confirms a statement made by Ryanair earlier this month on the likely outcome of the Commission's deliberations. The ruling marks the second time that the Commission has prohibited Ryanair's advances for the Irish flag carrier.
Joaquìn Almunia, the European commissioner for competition, said that the move would have “directly harmed passengers” who would have had to pay higher fares. The two airlines currently compete head to head.
He said that Ryanair's proposed remedies, including giving capital and some of Aer Lingus's flights to British airline Flybe, were not sufficient to allay competition concerns.
Ryanair said that it would appeal the ruling, alleging that it was a decision “motivated by narrow political interests” made “to pander to the vested interests of the Irish government” which owns a minority 25% stake in Aer Lingus.
“At a time when airlines in Europe and further afield are merging to form bigger competition champions... the Commission has yet again set back competition and choice in Europe,” spokesman Robin Kiely said.
The Commission blocked Ryanair's first planned takeover of Aer Lingus in 2007. Ryanair abandoned a second attempt two years later after Ireland's government came out against it. It made a third bid in June.