The acquisition of Aer Lingus by IAG, the parent company of British Airways, is now certain to go ahead following the approval of the deal by the European Union. This follows the announcement last week that Ryanair had agreed to sell its 29% shareholding.
The EU did not roll over entirely, however.
It has imposed the following conditions on the transactions:
British Airways must give up five slots at Gatwick (yes Gatwick, not Heathrow) which will be ring-fenced for any airline wishing to start London-Dublin or London-Belfast services. Ryanair has already expressed interest.
Aer Lingus must continue to sell seats to other airlines wishing to use its flights to connect to long-haul services from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Amsterdam, Shannon and Dublin. This means, for example, that Aer Lingus cannot refuse to work with Virgin Atlantic to allow Virgin to sell Dublin – Heathrow – Detroit as one ticket.
IAG has already made its own concessions – to retain the Aer Lingus brand (binding), to retain the core schedule for seven years (binding) and to launch four new long-haul routes (not binding).
Going forward, we can expect – and these are my guesses only – good news and bad news:
tier points and full Avios points (as opposed to the current reduced number of Avios points) available on Aer Lingus flights
Aer Lingus redemptions to be available online via ba.com
Gold Circle points to be turned into Avios
ability to effectively earn Avios points on United flights in the US by crediting them to Gold Circle and waiting for the conversion to Avios
Aer Lingus to join oneworld
fuel surcharges to be added to Aer Lingus redemption flights to the US as soon as permission is received for the airline to enter the Iberia / Finnair / BA / AA pricing cartel on transatlantic flights
Aer Lingus redemption seats become harder to find – at present, because you need to ring to book them, few people know they exist
competition from members of other oneworld frequent flyer programmes for Aer Lingus redemption seats
None of this will happen immediately as the deal will take a couple of months to reach legal completion. Whatever happens, Aer Lingus flights from Dublin to Boston will still be the cheapest way of flying to the US on Avios points. It remains under 3,000 miles and therefore in the cheaper pricing band.