The Competition Commission yesterday published a report calling Ryanair’s minority shareholding in the rival low-cost Irish airline as having "led to or may be expected to lead to a substantial lessening of competition between the airlines on routes between Great Britain and Ireland".
Ryanair has hit back by calling the Competition Commission’s claims "baseless" and its findings "wrong", stating that it will "appeal the UKCC’s unlawful ruling to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal".
The Competition Commission has told Ryanair to divest part of its stake for fears that Aer Lingus’s commercial strategy would be affected by preventing it from being acquired by or combining with another airline.
The Commission noted the importance of "scale" to airlines, supported by the evidence of widespread industry consolidation in recent years, such as the deal between Virgin Atlantic and Delta Airlines, which owns a 49% stake against Richard Branson’s majority 51%.
In a lengthy statement, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary accused the Competition Commission’s Simon Polito and Roger Davis of "ignoring evidence" in a "misguided pursuit of their pre-determined conclusion". He claims that the report was "not a competition investigation, but merely a corrupt and politically biased charade".
O’Leary said: "In February 2013, the European Commission found that competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has ‘intensified’ since 2007. T
he UKCC’s failure to accept this finding is a breach of its legal duty of sincere co-operation between the UK and the EU competition authorities and will form the basis for Ryanair’s appeal against this bizarre and manifestly unsound ruling, which our lawyers will lodge with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in the coming weeks."