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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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Virgin: 'Selling Aer Lingus will be bad news for customers'

Ticket prices will go up and quality of service will go down, the airline believes.

Virgin raises US flight capacity Source: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

VIRGIN ATLANTIC HAS waded into the debate on the sale of Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group (IAG), warning that such a move might not be in the best interests of customers.

The airline giant is warning of higher ticket prices and a lower quality of service.

In a letter to members of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, director of network and alliances Joe Thompson said that while Virgin has no direct presence in Ireland, it serves as an important carrier for connecting flights from the United Kingdom.

He is calling for commitments from IAG to maintain flights between the UK and Ireland.

“Any loss of Aer Lingus feed would lessen our competitive constraint on BA and reduce choice for consumers,” the letter reads.

“VAA’s ability to compete for this traffic, in combination with Aer Lingus as the provider of short-haul ‘feed’, benefits Irish consumers in the form of greater choice of airlines and travel times, lower prices, and improved levels of service.”

These consumer benefits are at risk if IAG’s acquisition of Aer Lingus is allowed to proceed unchecked.

The letter, seen by this website, adds that Virgin has contacted the European Commission, warning that a ‘significant remedy package’ will be needed to protect customers if the sale goes ahead.

“The impact of a monopoly on consumers is invariably higher prices and deteriorating service levels,” Thompson adds.

The recent experience from the sale of BMI to British Airways shows that without effective remedies this decision is bad news for consumers.

He explained that this resulted in a fall of daily services and a rise in prices

The Government has yet to decide on whether its 25% stake in Aer Lingus will be sold.

Airlines face action on breaches Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

After rejecting a previous bid, further meetings have been held with officials and the airline to suss out further options.

However, Fianna Fail’s Transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley said the Government needs to move quickly on the issue.

“It should now be clear to the Minister and the government that the outright sale of Aer Lingus to IAG is not in the best interest of Irish air travellers or inbound tourists,” he said.

The Government needs to move quickly to end the uncertainty by declining the advances of IAG to purchase the Irish people’s share holding in Aer Lingus.

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Nicky Ryan

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