Aer Lingus has opened a new base at Gatwick airport, its first hub outside Ireland, as it attempts to thwart an increasingly hostile take-over bid from Ryanair.
The loss-making airline said it will operate short-haul service from Gatwick to Ireland and other European destinations. The expansion will cost £100m and create 120 new jobs. Four Airbus A320 short-haul aircraft will initially be based in Gatwick and that is expected to grow to eight within a year.Chief Executive Dermot Mannion said, “The Gatwick operation will complement our existing services out of London Heathrow, and position Aer Lingus for growth as we roll out new routes and bases in future years.”
Ryanair, which had its 750m Euro offer for Aer Lingus rejected earlier in the week, accused its rival of making “contradictory claims and forecasts”, and called on it to clarify its business strategy.
Ryanair argued that comments made by Aer Lingus about its trading performance following the recent takeover offer were much more upbeat than those made in Aer Lingus’s interim management statement on November 11.
“We, as a large shareholder, are concerned about some of these apparently contradictory claims and forecasts, and their impact upon Aer Lingus’ forecast post exceptional net profit (loss) after tax for 2008 and 2009,” Ryanair said in a shareholder letter to Aer Lingus.
Ryanair, which already owns almost 30 per cent of aer lingus, said other investors should vote in favour of a creation of a united Irish airline by 5 January, however aer lingus chairman Colm Barrington dismissed the offer, saying that it contained “nothing new” and “significantly undervalued the airline”.