Ryanair-Aer Lingus: 46-route giveaway is biggest unsolved mystery, ever

Ryanair take over of Aer Lingus

Manneken pis(sed off). If Ryanair bought Aer Lingus it mysteriously promised to give away (with cash) almost three-quarters of Aer Lingus's Dublin routes to Flybe Ireland and British Airways. This leads to the world’s second biggest unsolved mystery: Was the EU Commission being completely truthful when it said this this would really matter to consumers (or does it just not like Ryanair?)

Last week’s decision by the European Commission to once again veto Ryanair’s attempts to take control of Aer Lingus has, not surprisingly, raised many questions. Here at anna.aero we have been trying to get our heads around what it all means, and are still very confused. So we’ve decided to try and clarify things as much as we can by taking a closer look at some of the things that were said.

The 46 overlapping routes

The EU made repeated reference to 46 routes on which Ryanair’s takeover of Aer Lingus would result in it having a dominant or monopoly position. These routes have been identified as:

From To S12 WF, Aer Lingus (EI), Ryanair (FR)
Alicante (ALC) / Murcia (MJV)
Barcelona (BCN)
Berlin (SXF)
Bilbao (BIO) / Santander (SDR)
Birmingham (BHX) / East Midlands (EMA)
Bristol (BRS) / Cardiff (CWL) / Exeter (EXT)
Brussels (BRU) / Charleroi (CRL)
Budapest (BUD)
Edinburgh (EDI)
Faro (FAO)
Glasgow (GLA) / Prestwick (PIK)
Frankfurt (FRA) / Hahn (HHN)
Fuerteventura (FUE)
Gran Canaria (LPA)
Ibiza (IBZ)
Lanzarote (ACE)

Madrid (MAD)

Malaga (AGP)
Manchester (MAN) / Liverpool (LPL)
Marseille (MRS)
Milan (MXP/LIN) / Bergamo (BGY)
Munich (MUC) / Memmingen (FMM)
Nice (NCE)
Palma de Mallorca (PMI)
Paris (CDG) / Beauvais (BVA)
Rome Fiumicino (FCO) / Rome Ciampino (CIA)
Stockholm (ARN) / Skavsta (NYO)
Tenerife (TFS)
Toulouse (TLS) / Carcassonne (CCF)
Venice (VCE) / Treviso (TSF)
Vienna (VIE) / Bratislava (BTS)
Warsaw (WAW) / Modlin (WMI)
EI (5, ALC), FR (13, ALC), FR (8, MJV)
EI (14), FR (7)
EI (9), FR (5)
EI (3, BIO), FR (2, SDR)
EI (20, BHX), FR (20, BHX), FR (14, EMA)
EI (14, BRS), EI (13, CWL), FR (21, BRS)
EI (17, BRU), FR (7, CRL)
EI (7), FR (7)
EI (27), FR (18)
EI (14), FR (16)
EI (30, GLA), FR (11, PIK)
EI (14, FRA), FR (5, HHN)
EI (1), FR (3)
EI (3), FR (4)
EI (3), FR (3)
EI (4), FR (6)
EI (37, LGW), EI (89, LHR), EI (20, SEN),
FR (45, STN), FR (21, LTN), FR (31, LGW)
EI (10), FR (8)
EI (14), FR (19)
EI (23, MAN), FR (24, MAN), FR (24, LPL)
EI (3), FR (2)
EI (7, LIN), EI (7, MXP), FR (9, BGY)
EI (11, MUC), FR (4, FMM)
EI (7), FR (2)
EI (5), FR (6)
EI (21, CDG), FR (12, BVA)
EI (11, FCO), EI (7, CIA)
EI (4, ARN), FR (4, NYO)
EI (2), FR (4)
EI (4, TLS), FR (4, CCF)
EI (4, VCE), FR (3, TSF)
EI (7, VIE), FR (6, BTS)
EI (7, WAW), FR (3, WMI)
Alicante (ALC) / Murcia (MJV)
Barcelona (BCN) / Girona (GRO)
Faro (FAO)
Lanzarote (ACE)
London (LHR/LGW)

Malaga (AGP)

Manchester (MAN) / Liverpool (LPL)
Palma de Mallorca (PMI)
Tenerife (TFS)
EI (2, ALC), FR (3, ALC)
EI (3, BCN), FR (2, GRO)
EI (6), FR (2)
EI (3), FR (1)
EI (6, LGW), EI (28, LHR), FR (8, LGW),
FR (15, STN)
EI (7), FR (4)
EI (16, MAN), FR (5, LPL)
EI (2), FR (2)
EI (only operated in winter), FR (1)
Shannon (SNN) London (LHR/LGW/STN)
Manchester (MAN) / Liverpool (LPL)
EI (21, LHR), FR (7, LGW), FR (14, STN)
EI (13, MAN), FR (3, LPL)
Birmingham (BHX) / East Midlands (EMA)
London (LGW/LTN/STN)
EI (7, BHX), FR (5, EMA)
EI (7, LGW), FR (5, LTN), FR (7, STN)
Source: EU, OAG Max Online for w/c 6 August 2012
Routes in Bold are also served by other carriers during at least some part of the year.

Ryanair’s proposed solution to this situation was to agree to handover 43 of those routes to a new airline, Flybe Ireland, while the remaining three London routes would go to IAG (the owner of British Airways). This rather begs the question of what Ryanair would be left with…which we will examine shortly. First of all let’s take a look at the disposal of the 43 routes to the newly-created Flybe Ireland.

Flybe Ireland: The facts

According to a Flybe Analyst and Investor Presentation from 6 February the following key points had been agreed.

  • Flybe would acquire from Ryanair a new company ‘Flybe Ireland’ for a bargain €1m.
  • Prior to acquisition by Flybe, Ryanair would transfer to Flybe Ireland 43 European routes, the requisite slots and licences to operate the routes, a minimum of nine Airbus A320s on five year operating leases, and the required pilots, cabin crew, engineers, management and other facilities to operate the business.
  • Ryanair would capitalise Flybe Ireland with a generous £100m ($150m) of cash equity, and would provide revenue protection during transition from Aer Lingus to Flybe Ireland.
  • Ryanair and Flybe would agree a business plan to deliver a cost structure that, based on Aer Lingus revenues from the 43 routes in year to 31 March 2013, would deliver a pre-tax €20m profit in Year 1 of Flybe Ireland operations.

Our analysis of schedule data for a peak week in August 2012 indicates that the 33 former Aer Lingus routes from Dublin that Flybe Ireland (and British Airways) would initially operate represents some 73% of Aer Lingus’ non-Transatlantic scheduled seat capacity from Dublin in that week. In other words, having bought Aer Lingus Ryanair would then be giving away almost three-quarters of Aer Lingus’s Dublin operations to other carriers. Similar analysis at Cork reveals that Ryanair would be handing over around 55% of Aer Lingus’ schedule seat capacity to other airlines.

Ryanair left with 34 former Aer Lingus routes at Dublin

Based on analysis of last summer’s schedule data we believe that, having handed over the 46 routes to other airlines Ryanair would be potentially left with the following 30 European routes from Dublin, plus transatlantic services to Boston, Chicago, New York JFK and Orlando.

Weekly Frequency (S12) Destination (Code, competition)
35 Amsterdam (AMS)
14 Düsseldorf (DUS), Kerry (KIR)
12 Isle Of Man (IOM)
9 Geneva (GVA)
8 Lisbon (LIS)
7 Aberdeen (ABZ), Blackpool (BLK), Hamburg (HAM), Prague (PRG), Zurich (ZRH)
6 Lyon (LYS)
5 Bordeaux (BOD), Naples (NAP)
4 Bourgas (BOJ), Dubrovnik (DBV), Stuttgart (STR)
3 Athens (ATH), Bologna (BLQ), Helsinki (HEL), Jersey (JER), Krakow (KRK), Rennes (RNS), Santiago de Compostela (SCQ), Vilnius (VNO)
2 Bucharest (OTP), Catania (CTA), Izmir (ADB), Perpignan (PGF), Verona (VRN)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 August 2012

In addition Ryanair would have acquired the following additional Aer Lingus routes.

From To (WF)
Belfast International (BFS) Alicante (ALC), Barcelona (BCN), Faro (FAO), Gran Canaria (LPA), Lanzarote (ACE), London Heathrow (LHR), Malaga (AGP), Tenerife (TFS)
Cork (ORK) Amsterdam (AMS), Birmingham (BHX), Bristol (BRS), Brussels (BRU), Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA), Jersey (JER), Lisbon (LIS), Munich (MUC), Nice (NCE), Paris (CDG), Rennes (RNS), Rome (FCO)
Shannon (SNN) Birmingham (BHX), Boston (BOS), Bristol (BRS), Edinburgh (EDI), New York JFK (JFK), Rennes (RNS)
Waterford (WAT) London Luton (LTN), London Southend (SEN), Manchester (MAN)

So what would Ryanair have got if the EU had approved it?

  • The Aer Lingus transatlantic routes Ryanair would have bought would have to rely on feed from far fewer routes – unless it was going to agree to codeshare deals with Flybe Ireland (its supposed new rival) and/or operate connecting services from Ryanair’s existing hub network at Dublin.
  • Ryanair would have given away almost three-quarters of Aer Lingus’ Dublin operations (by seat capacity) and be left with a network of 30 European routes to airports such as Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Geneva, Hamburg and Zurich – airports which Ryanair has never served because it claims the costs are too high.

When Ryanair originally spoke about acquiring Aer Lingus there seemed to be some logic (the intention of keeping it as a separate brand with a different market proposition to Ryanair, serving major European and North American airports, but with a lower cost base). However, the latest plan of spending a lot of money to buy Aer Lingus, and then spending $150m more to create a new ‘IVF’ competitor is one of three things:

  • Business reasons: An amazing conspiracy to drive up the value of its 30% shares (something far too elaborate for poor salaried employees of anna.aero to understand).
  • Political reason: A determination to overcome the opposition of successive Irish governments which all hate Ryanair and act and live with it in a state of war.
  • Emotional reason: A simple ambition of some of Ireland’s most powerful men to own their national carrier (the airline business does this to people and, let’s face it, they’ve worked and saved hard and can easily afford a few luxuries without shareholder objection).


  1. Alan Young says:

    The data re Belfast International is incorrect.
    EI moved all operations to Belfast City [BHD] autumn 12 and at the same time dropped a number of routes.
    EI now operate BHD – LHR;GAT; 6 x daily and plan seasonal ops to AGP and ALC + ???.

    Kind regards

    • Hi Alan,

      You’re quite correct that EI closed its BFS operation at the end of October 2012, and re-appeared at BHD with multiple daily flights to Heathrow and Gatwick, with daily flights to Faro and Malaga, and twice-weekly flights to Palma starting at the end of March/beginning of April. However, since the EU analysis was focussed on what EI was operating in S12 that’s what we analysed as well. But thanks for pointing that out.

  2. Jat says:

    Dear Anna,
    I agree with the thrust of your analysis. None of Ryanair’s actions make much business sense with regard to its attempted hostile take over Aer Lingus, plus Ireland is but one of many markets it operates in. However Ireland is still it’s base of operations and domination here would allow Ryanair to dictate terms to the DAA, the government and Irish aviation policy, the IAA, the unions..it ticks many boxes.

  3. helder portugal says:

    For business reasons it makes much more sense for Ryanair to buy TAP – national carrier from Portugal – that is on sale very cheap and has a far more developed intercontinental routes than Aer Lingus.
    And TAP has low cost structure so it would be easy for Ryanair to adapt.
    But Ryanair is blind by Aer Lingus because is Irish.
    Poor stake holders, they don’t know where to spend their money. TAP is still waiting for someone with vision to be interested.

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