FINE Gael’s Deputy Patrick O’Donovan has acknowledged IAG’s “guarantee” to maintain existing flights between Shannon and Heathrow for five years in the event of a takeover of Aer Lingus is an improvement but believes the deal is “nowhere near a handshake”.
He was speaking after IAG CEO Willie Walsh’s appearance before the Oireachtas transport committee in a bid to persuade TDs of case for the government selling its 25.1% stake in Aer Lingus.
It was questioning from Deputy O’Donovan that elicited a fresh concession from Mr Walsh that IAG would guarantee three flights a day between Shannon and Heathrow for the next five years.
Mr Walsh’s appearance before the committee has failed to convince some in Fine Gael, with Shannon-based Senator Tony Mulcahy threatening to resign the whip if the government stake is sold.
And Limerick Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell has said the five-year commitment in relation to Heathrow “does not go far enough” while he also has concerns at the failure to guarantee transatlantic business at Shannon.
Deputy O’Donovan stated: “I can understand the concern and it is a concern for me myself as I’m from the region. But I think there is a bit to play out in this yet and I don’t think we are anywhere near a handshake on this deal. He [Willie Walsh]is certainly not going to give away the price of the cattle before he takes them to the mart,
If Ryanair is obliged to dispose of its stake later in the year the government would be “in an even weaker position” than it currently is, Deputy O’Donovan noted.
“The other thing that is clear at the moment is that there is no guarantee on the slots. Aer Lingus tomorrow morning could decide they were going to operate a New York-Heathrow or a Sydney-Heathrow route and there is absolutely nothing anybody can do about it as we saw before wheen they took them out of Shannon,” he added.