MIAMI (Reuters) - Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd [VA.UL] is looking for government help to safeguard competition if its largest rival buys Irish carrier Aer Lingus Group PLC AERL.I, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Executive Officer Craig Kreeger told reporters on Monday.
The remarks, made on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting, come as a takeover of Aer Lingus by International Airlines Group (ICAG.L) becomes more likely. The Irish government recently agreed to sell its 25-percent stake in Aer Lingus to British Airways’ parent, and 4.99-percent stakeholder Etihad Airways on Sunday said it agreed to do the same.
“We expect that the transaction will ultimately reach conclusion, but we’d certainly love to see a hard look at what kind of remedies might be appropriate to allow competitive connectivity to Ireland to continue to exist,” Kreeger said.
Virgin Atlantic has partnered with Aer Lingus to operate short flights within the United Kingdom, although it announced in 2014 that it would discontinue that service.
“We’ll just have to wait and see” what Virgin’s relationship with Aer Lingus will look like after a takeover deal, Kreeger said.
He added that joining Aer Lingus’s transatlantic operation with IAG‘s, which already controls a significant amount of that market, is of concern to him.
In particular, he said the government could take action to allow for competitive pricing. He did not specify which government he was talking about.
“We just like to see customers have competitive alternatives, and we’d like to be a part of that,” Kreeger said.
Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in Miami; Editing by Christian Plumb