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Aer Lingus Group Plc (ISEQ: EIL1, LSE: AERL; /ˈeɪr ˈlɪŋɡəs/, an anglicisation of the Irish Aer Loingeas meaning "air fleet"[1]) is the national flag carrier of Ireland. It operates a fleet of mostly Airbus aircraft[2] serving Europe, North Africa, Turkey and North America.[3] It is Ireland's oldest extant airline, and its second largest, after low-cost rival Ryanair. The airline's head office is located on the grounds of Dublin Airport in Swords, Dublin, Ireland.

Formed in 1936, Aer Lingus is a former member of the Oneworld airline alliance, which it left on 31 March 2007. While it is not part of an alliance, the airline has codeshares with Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam members, as well as interline agreements with Etihad Airways, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines. Aer Lingus has a hybrid business model,[4] operating a mixed fare service[5] on its European and North African routes and full service, two-class flights on transatlantic routes. It is one of the safest airlines in the world. [6]

Ryanair owns over 29% of Aer Lingus stock and the Irish state owns over 25%. The state had previously held an 85% shareholding until the Government's decision to float the company on the Dublin and London Stock Exchanges on 2 October 2006. The principal group companies include Aer Lingus Limited, Aer Lingus Beachey Limited, Aer Lingus (Ireland) Limited and Dirnan Insurance Company Limited, all of which are wholly owned.[7]

Aer Lingus celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2011. On 26 March, the company presented its latest aircraft which has been painted in the 1960s livery and the crew was wearing a selection of the historical uniforms.[8][9]

A DH.84 Dragon, repainted in the livery of Aer Lingus' original aircraft "Iolar".
Aer Lingus was founded on 15 April 1936, with a capital of £100,000. Its first chairman was Seán Ó hUadhaigh.[10] Pending legislation for Government investment through a parent company, Aer Lingus was associated with Blackpool and West Coast Air Services which advanced the money for the first aircraft, and operated with Aer Lingus under the common title "Irish Sea Airways".[11][12] Aer Lingus Teoranta was registered as an airline on 22 May 1936.[13] The name Aer Lingus is an anglicisation of the Irish form Aer Loingeas, which means Air Fleet. The name was proposed by Richard F O'Connor, who was County Cork Surveyor, as well as an aviation enthusiast. Aer Lingus was originally pronounced 'air ling-us' (as the Irish Aer Loingeas is pronounced) and only later did the pronunciation change to the 'air ling-gus' used now.

On 27 May 1936, five days after being registered as an airline, its first service began between Baldonnel Airfield in Dublin and Bristol (Whitchurch) Airport, United Kingdom, using a six-seater De Havilland 84 Dragon (registration EI-ABI) biplane, named Iolar (Eagle).

The original aircraft acquired by Aer Lingus (DH.84 Dragon MK2) was later sold to an English company in 1938 as the airline expanded. The original aircraft is believed to have been shot down and lost in 1941 near the Scilly Isles during World War 2.

Later that year, the airline acquired its second aircraft, a four-engined biplane De Havilland 86 Express named "Éire", with a capacity of 14 passengers.[12] This aircraft provided the first air link between Dublin and London by extending the Bristol service to Croydon. At the same time, the DH84 Dragon was used to inaugurate an Aer Lingus service on the Dublin-Liverpool route.

The airline was established as the national carrier under the Air Navigation and Transport Act (1936).[13] In 1937, the Irish government created Aer Rianta (now called Dublin Airport Authority), a company to assume financial responsibility for the new airline and the entire country's civil aviation infrastructure. In April 1937, Aer Lingus became wholly owned by the Irish government via Aer Rianta.

The airline's first General Manager was Dr J.F. (Jeremiah known as 'Jerry') Dempsey, a chartered accountant, who joined the company on secondment from Kennedy Crowley & Co (predecessor to KPMG) as Company Secretary in 1936 (aged 30) and was appointed to the role of General Manager in 1937. He retired 30 years later in 1967 at the age of 60.

In 1938, Iolar was replaced by a de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide, and a second DH86B was also purchased. Two Lockheed 14s arrived in 1939, Aer Lingus' first all-metal aircraft.

Douglas DC-3 at Manchester Airport in 1948 wearing the first postwar livery
In January 1940, a new airport was completed in the Dublin suburb of Collinstown and Aer Lingus moved their operations there. A new DC-3 was bought and new services to Liverpool and an internal service to Shannon were inaugurated. The airline's services were curtailed during World War II with the sole route being to Liverpool or Barton Aerodrome Manchester depending on the fluctuating security situation.

Post-war expansion[edit]
On 9 November 1945, regular services were resumed with an inaugural flight to London. From this point Aer Lingus planes, initially mostly Douglas DC-3s, were painted in a silver and green livery. The airline's first flight attendants were introduced.

In 1946, a new Anglo-Irish agreement gave Aer Lingus exclusive UK traffic rights from Ireland in exchange for a 40% holding by BOAC and British European Airways (BEA). Because of Aer Lingus' growth the airline bought seven new Vickers Viking planes in 1947, however, these proved to be uneconomical and were soon sold.

A Bristol 170 Freighter at Manchester Airport in 1953.
In 1947, Aerlínte Éireann came into existence with the purpose of operating transatlantic flights to New York from Ireland. Five new Lockheed L-749 Constellations were ordered but a change of government and a financial crisis prevented the service from starting. John A Costello, the incoming Fine Gael Taoiseach (Prime Minister), was not a keen supporter of air travel and thought that flying the Atlantic was too grandiose a scheme for a small airline from a small country like Ireland.[14] The Constellations were then sold to BOAC.

A Vickers Viscount 808 in "green top" livery at Manchester Airport in 1963.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Aer Lingus introduced routes to Brussels, Amsterdam via Manchester and to Rome. Because of the expanding route structure the airline became one of the first to order Vickers Viscount 700s in 1951, which were placed in service in April 1954. In 1952 the airline expanded its all-freight services and acquired a small fleet of Bristol 170 Freighters, which remained in service until 1957.

In 1954, Prof. Patrick Lynch was appointed chairman of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta at the young age of 38, taking on the task of turning the £60,000 deficit of the company's into a profit. He was Chairman for 21 years to 1975, and retired from that position at his own request to the government of the day. Even with changes of government, they retained him in this position.[citation needed] In 1956, Aer Lingus introduced a new, green-top livery with a white lighting flash down the windows and the Irish flag displayed on the fin.

First transatlantic service[edit]

A Boeing 720 in Aer Lingus-Irish International livery in 1965.
On 28 April 1958, Aerlínte Éireann operated its first transatlantic service from Shannon to New York. Three Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellations were used for the twice-weekly service. The aircraft were leased from the American airline Seaboard and Western while Irish cabin crews were used. This arrangement continued until 1 January 1960 when Aerlínte Éireann was renamed Aer Lingus – Irish International Airlines.

Aer Lingus bought seven Fokker F27 Friendships, which were delivered between November 1958 and May 1959. These were used in short-haul services to the UK, gradually replacing the Dakotas, until Aer Lingus disposed of them during 1966 in favour of secondhand Viscount 800s.

The airline entered the jet age on 14 December 1960 when three Boeing 720 were delivered for use on the New York route and the newest Aer Lingus destination Boston.

In 1963, Aer Lingus added Carvairs to the fleet. With this aircraft, five cars could be transported by loading them into the fuselage through the nose of the aircraft. The Carvair proved to be uneconomic for the airline partly due to the rise of car ferry services by sea, and the aircraft were then used for freight services until disposed of.

The Boeing 720s proved to be a success for the airline on the transatlantic routes. To supplement these, Aer Lingus took delivery of their first larger Boeing 707 in 1964, and the type continued to serve the airline until 1986.

Jet aircraft[edit]

A Fokker F27 Friendship at Manchester Airport in 1965, the F27 was used on short-haul services between 1958 and 1966.
Conversion of the European fleet to jet equipment began in 1965 when the BAC One-Eleven started services from Dublin and Cork to Paris and via Manchester to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt. A new livery was adopted in the same year, with a large green shamrock on the fin and titles of Aer Lingus-Irish International just above the plane's windows. In 1966, the remainder of the company's shares held by Aer Rianta were transferred to the Minister for Finance.

An Aviation Traders Carvair that was used as a vehicle freighter is seen loading a car at Bristol Airport in 1964.
In 1966, the route from Shannon to Montreal and onward to Chicago was inaugurated. In 1968, flights from Belfast, in Northern Ireland, to New York were started. The service was soon suspended, due to the beginning of the Troubles in the area. 1969 saw the introduction of Boeing 737s to the Aer Lingus fleet, to cope with the high demand for flights between the cities of Dublin and London. Later, Aer Lingus extended the 737 flights to all of their European network.

In 1967, after 30 years of service, General Manager Dr J.F. Dempsey signed the contract for the airline's first two Boeing 747 aircraft (Jumbo Jets) before he retired that year.

1970s to present[edit]

A BAC One-Eleven in the old livery at Zürich Airport, Switzerland in 1975.
In 1971, Aer Lingus took delivery of two Boeing 747s for use on the transatlantic routes, the first being delivered on 6 March 1971.[15][16] A third was later added to the fleet but one was leased out because it was not profitable at first for the company to fly 747s across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1974, a new livery was unveiled and the word International disappeared from the fuselage titles. The livery included two colours of blue and one green, plus the white shamrock on the fin.

In 1977, Aer Lingus recruited its first female pilot, Gráinne Cronin – the airline was the second in Europe (after SAS) to introduce female pilots.[17]

In September 1979, Aer Lingus became the first airline other than Alitalia to be used by Pope John Paul II, when he flew aboard a specially modified Boeing 747 (EI-ASI or St. Patrick) from Rome to Dublin and later from Shannon to Boston. In the early 1980s the 707s were phased out.

An Aer Lingus Commuter Saab 340 at Dublin Airport in 1993.
In 1984, a fully owned subsidiary, Aer Lingus Commuter, was formed so that Aer Lingus could fly to larger cities in Ireland and Britain whose flying time from Dublin did not require jet planes. These services were operated primarily by five of the Belfast-built Short 360 after conducting a trial with the Short 330. Around this time Aer Lingus purchased a majority sharehold in the cargo airline Aer Turas, owner of some DC-8 freighter jets.

Between 1987 and 1989, new Boeing 737s arrived to replace the older ones, and six Fokker 50s were added to the Commuter fleet. During 1990, after the passage of the deregulation act for the airline industry in Ireland, Aer Lingus had to reconsider its operational policies. The BAC One-Elevens were retired and five new 737s arrived. In 1991, four Saab 340Bs arrived at the commuter division to replace the Short 360 planes. By 1992 Aer Lingus's entire original 737-200 fleet had been replaced and was now the first operator in the world of all three versions of the second generation 737. These were the −300, −400 and −500 series, although the −300 did not stay long in Aer Lingus service.

Airbus operations[edit]

An Airbus A321 landing at London Heathrow Airport in 2007.
In 1994, Aer Lingus started direct services between Dublin and the United States using the Airbus A330 and in May of that year Aer Lingus operated the first A330-300 ETOPS service over the North Atlantic. This led to the phasing out of the Boeing 747 and the briefly operated Boeing 767-300ER. On 2 October 1995, the Boeing 747 service ceased operations after twenty-five years of service. By that time, over eight million people had travelled across the Atlantic in Aer Lingus Boeing 747s. The late 1990s saw Aer Lingus return to Belfast with a service to New York via Shannon. Newark Liberty International Airport was also added as a destination, but these flights stopped in 2001.

The first Airbus short-haul aircraft arrived in 1998 in the form of the A321, initially to mainly operate the Dublin-Heathrow route. Six were delivered in 1998 and 1999 and three of these continue in service today. The first A320 was delivered in 2000, with three more added to the fleet by 2001.

On 1 February 2001, Aer Lingus Commuter was merged back into the mainline operation. Business was severely affected by the 11 September attacks. Staff numbers were cut, destinations were dropped and the fleet was reduced. The airline has since weathered the storm and is back in profit. This has largely been achieved through a strategy of lowering the airline's cost base, updating the fleet with modern Airbus equipment and developing new routes to mainland European destinations. Aer Lingus had previously largely neglected mainland Europe in favour of US and British destinations. They are positioning themselves as competition to the European no-frills airlines while offering intercontinental flights as well. Business class travel for short-haul flights has been phased out. Cargo services remain on a small number of routes.

A large order for A320 aircraft saw deliveries commencing in 2004 and continuing to the present. The delivery of these aircraft allowed the withdrawal of the Boeing 737 to begin and on 29 October 2005, Aer Lingus withdrew its last two 737 aircraft from service, one of which was used on the Dublin to Nice route. This marked the end of the use of Boeing aircraft at Aer Lingus and made the fleet all Airbus.

On 27 October 2005, Aer Lingus announced their first scheduled service to Asia from March 2006 as Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, where Chief Executive Dermot Mannion was based when at Emirates Airline.[18] Despite the Aer Lingus press release describing it as the first long-haul service outside the United States, there had in fact been a previous service to Montreal from 1966 to 1979. The great circle distance of 5,926 kilometres (3,682 mi) is comparable to the service to Chicago. At the same time Mr. Mannion linked the funding of new long-haul aircraft to replace the A330 fleet with the privatisation of the airline.[19] The Dubai service ceased in March 2008 as the airline sought to increase its market share in the newly liberalised transatlantic market.

On 6 June 2007, Aer Lingus strengthened its relationship with the European manufacturer by ordering six of the new A350-900 as well as six A330-300. These will be used to expand long-haul operations as well as replacement aircraft for three older models. Deliveries of the A330 began in February 2009 and in 2011 Aer Lingus switched the remaining 3 A330 orders to the A350-900 model, with delivery no sooner than 2017. The deliveries of the 6 A350-900 is expected to begin in 2015.[2]


The Aer Lingus logo on an Airbus A330 winglet in flight.
In preparation for the commercial flotation of Aer Lingus on the Dublin stock market, the Irish government agreed to abolish the Shannon Stopover from the end of 2006 in stages.

The company began conditional (or "grey-market") share dealings on 27 September 2006 and was formally admitted to the Official Lists of the Irish Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange on 2 October 2006. At the time of the flotation the Irish government maintained a 28% shareholding, while employees held 15%. The stock IPO offer price was E2.20. It has risen as high as E3.28 (March 2007) and is now trading around E1.00, suffering from the general economic downturn, oil price hikes, and repeated staff industrial disputes.[20][21]

Aer Lingus withdrew from the Oneworld airline alliance on 31 March 2007, instead entering into bilateral agreements with airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, KLM, and United Airlines. The move was explained to be due to Aer Lingus' repositioning as a low-cost carrier, which did not fit with Oneworld's pitch to the premium international frequent flyer.

On 6 February 2007, however, the airline announced its intention to form a new alliance with JetBlue Airways. This new alliance acts as a weblink between the two airlines, meaning Aer Lingus customers are able to book JetBlue destinations from the Aer Lingus website. In 2008, it also announced an alliance with United Airlines for connecting services within the US.

With the flotation of Aer Lingus on the stock exchange, Aer Lingus had planned to expand its route network, but this is on hold due to the economic situation.

Ryanair takeover bid (2006/2013)[edit]
On 5 October 2006, Ryanair launched a bid to buy Aer Lingus. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said the move was a "unique opportunity" to form an Irish airline. The "new" airline would carry over 50 million passengers a year. Ryanair said it had bought a 16% stake in Aer Lingus and was offering €2.80 for remaining shares.[22] On the same day Aer Lingus rejected Ryanair's takeover bid.[23] On 5 October 2006, Ryanair confirmed it had raised its stake to 19.2%, and said it had no problem in the Irish Government keeping its 28.3%. There were also reports in the Irish Times that the Government would possibly seek judgement from the courts, and referral to competition authorities in Dublin – although this would be automatic under European regulation, as the combined group would control 78% of the Dublin – London passenger air traffic.[24]

On 29 November 2006, Ryanair confirmed it had taken its stake to 26.2% of the airline.[25]

On 21 December 2006, Ryanair announced it was withdrawing its current bid for Aer Lingus, with the intent of pursuing another bid in the near future after the European Commission finishes investigating the current bid. The EC has been concerned that the takeover would reduce consumer choice and increase fares.[26]

On 27 June 2007, the European Commission announced their decision to block the bid on competition grounds saying the two airlines controlled more than 80% of all European flights to and from Dublin airport.[27]

On 27 February 2013, the European Commission blocked a third attempt by Ryanair to take over Aer Lingus, stating that the merger would have damaged consumers choice and resulted in increased fares.[28]

An Airbus A320-200 landing at London Heathrow Airport in 2009.
Cross border expansion[edit]
On 7 August 2007 the airline announced that it was to establish its first base outside of the Republic of Ireland at Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland. Services from Belfast International commenced in December 2007. As of July 2008, the airline has three Airbus A320 aircraft based at the airport, serving eleven European destinations. Significantly, this move restores the Belfast International to London Heathrow Airport link and Aer Lingus cooperates with its codeshare partner British Airways on this route to connect with BA's network at Heathrow. In order to do so, the airline discontinued its Shannon-Heathrow service, a move that generated political controversy in the west of Ireland, particularly as the Shannon-London route was still profitable. The airline predicted that this move would add one million additional passengers annually.[29][30] The Shannon to Heathrow service has since been reinstated.

After five years at Belfast-International Airport, Aer Lingus announced on 19 July 2012 that it would be moving its operations to George Best Belfast City Airport. The airline transferred its Belfast - London Heathrow flights over to Belfast City. It also announced the operation of a three times daily London Gatwick service. On 31 March 2013, services to Faro and Málaga were be launched from Belfast City Airport. Aer Lingus based 2 aircraft in Belfast City Airport for the Winter 2012–2013 season, and a third aircraft arrived for the Summer 2013 season.

Open Skies[edit]
On 22 March 2007, as a result of the EU–US Open Skies Agreement, Aer Lingus announced three new long-haul services to the United States. From Autumn 2007, Aer Lingus commenced direct flights to Orlando, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.-Dulles. These services were facilitated by the arrival of two new Airbus A330 aircraft in May 2007. The airline also serves Boston (Logan International Airport), Chicago (O'Hare International Airport), and New York (JFK Airport). Aer Lingus ended its Middle-Eastern Route to Dubai in March 2008, and ended its Los Angeles route in November 2008. The Washington and the San Francisco routes were discontinued as of 24 October 2009. Services from Washington, D.C. resumed on 28 March 2010 when the airline began flights from Washington D.C. to Madrid, Spain in a joint venture with United Airlines. The airline terminated this route on 30 October 2012.[31] Services from San Francisco have since resumed on 2 April 2014.

Effects of Global Financial Crisis[edit]
After reporting losses of €22 million for the first half of the year, in October 2008, Aer Lingus announced a €74 million cost saving plan. This was to involve up to 1500 job cuts including the loss of cabin crew bases in Shannon and Heathrow. The airline planned to scale back ground operations in Cork and Shannon Airport as well as outsourcing check-in, baggage handling, cargo and catering services in Dublin. Transatlantic services were to be reduced and staff were to be replaced with US-based cabin crew. A pay freeze was introduced to run until the end of 2009. This met with a largely negative response particularly from trade unions.[32] These cut backs have since been cancelled, and new cut backs including lower pay and a change in working conditions for ground staff have been implemented.

In December 2008, Aer Lingus announced that the Shannon – Heathrow service would resume from 29 March 2009 following new arrangements with the trade unions on staff costs and the Shannon Airport Authority on airport charges.[33] However at the end of June 2009 the company had accumulated losses of €93 million euro and Chairman Colm Barrington confirmed this situation could not continue.[34] In October 2009 newly appointed Chief Executive Christoph Mueller announced a radical cost cutting plan that would lead to the loss of 676 jobs at the company and see pay and pension reductions for those being kept on. The total plan aimed to achieve savings of €97 million euro between then and 2011. As a 6-week consultation process began, Mr. Mueller refused to rule out further cuts in the future.[35]

Second Ryanair takeover bid (2008/2009)[edit]

An Aer Lingus Boeing 737-200 and a BAC One-Eleven of rival Ryanair at Dublin Airport in 1992.
On 1 December 2008, Ryanair launched a second takeover bid of Aer Lingus, making an all-cash offer of €748 million (£619mil; US$950mil). The offer was a 28% premium on the value of Aer Lingus stock during the preceding 30 days. Ryanair said, "Aer Lingus, as a small, stand alone, regional airline has been marginalised and bypassed as most other EU flag carriers consolidate." The two airlines would operate separately and Ryanair claimed that they would double the Aer Lingus short-haul fleet from 33 to 66 and create 1,000 new jobs.[36][37][38] The Aer Lingus Board rejected the offer and advised its shareholders to take no action.[39] The offer was eventually rejected by a majority of the other shareholders. It was the second failed attempt by Michael O'Leary to take over the national flag carrier. Ryanair initially left the offer open to Aer Lingus until they withdrew their bid on 30 January 2009. The Irish Government slammed O'Leary's offer as "undervaluing the airline" and stated that a Ryanair takeover would have a "significant negative impact" on competition in the industry and on the Irish consumer.[40] Ryanair has repeatedly stated that another bid is unlikely,[41] but as of October 2010 it still had a stake in Aer Lingus, prompting an investigation by competition regulators in the UK.[42]

Gatwick base[edit]

Aer Lingus Airbus A319-100 departs London Heathrow Airport in 2014.
On 19 December 2008, Aer Lingus announced that it would be opening up a base at Gatwick Airport. Four aircraft were based there from April 2009, serving eight destinations. The destinations included Dublin, Faro, Knock, Málaga, Munich, Nice, Vienna and Zürich. CEO Dermot Mannion also said the company expects to increase the number of planes based at Gatwick to eight within 12 months.[43]

As of 6 June 2009, the airline based an additional A320 aircraft at Gatwick, bringing the total number of aircraft based there to five, making Gatwick its biggest base outside Ireland. This resulted in six new routes. These were Bucharest, Eindhoven, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Vilnius and Warsaw which commenced in late October 2009. The Gatwick to Nice route was suspended for the winter months.

On 8 January 2010, due to the weak demand in air travel, Aer Lingus announced that it was to reduce the number of aircraft based at Gatwick from five to three. The three remaining aircraft were to operate the carrier's services to Dublin, Knock and Málaga as well as a new route to Cork.[44]

In January 2011, Aer Lingus announced a new daily service from Gatwick to Shannon starting at the end of March. The service has since been suspended.[45]

The service to Málaga was suspended in January 2012, the airline now bases a sole aircraft at Gatwick servicing scheduled routes to Cork, Dublin and Knock as well as charter programme flights.

The Gatwick to Cork route finished on 27 October 2012. A new service from Gatwick to Belfast City Airport started on 28 October. The flights operate three times a day. This is following the airline's announcement that it is moving from Belfast-International Airport to Belfast City Airport on 28 October 2012.

Appointment of Christoph Mueller as CEO[edit]
On 6 April 2009, CEO Dermot Mannion announced his resignation from the airline after four years as Chief Executive.[46] He was replaced by German-born Christoph Müller (alternative spelling "Mueller"), former head of TUI Travel and Sabena, who joined Aer Lingus on 1 October 2009.[47]

On 2 December 2009, Aer Lingus announced that talks with their unions had broken down. As a result, the board voted to reduce capacity, and with it associated jobs, as a response. According to CEO Christoph Mueller, concessions offered by unions were of a short-term nature, and the airline was asked for high compensation in return. Aer Lingus has not yet identified the routes or jobs to be cut, but they would most likely "commence immediately and will be compulsory," according to Mueller.[48] As of April 2010 all employess groups had passed votes on the acceptance of the 'Greenfield' cost cutting plans which are expected to save €57M annually. Once implemented the second phase of cost cutting will commence which aims to save €40M annually by reducing 'back office staff' numbers by up to 40% according to the CEO.

Mueller has indicated that Aer Lingus intends to reposition itself again, moving away from a head-to-head competition with Ryanair in the low-cost sector to a more hybrid model with a stronger emphasis on service. As part of this move, Aer Lingus is also holding talks to join an airline alliance again, having left Oneworld in 2007.[49]

Aer Lingus announced on 15 June 2010 that it would be suspending services from Shannon to Boston and New York (JFK) for 11 weeks from January 2011.[50]

Third Ryanair takeover bid (2012)[edit]
On 19 June 2012, Ryanair announced its intention to launch another bid to take over Aer Lingus, at €1.30 per share, for a total of €694 million.[51] Ryanair hopes that the competition authorities will not block this attempt, pointing to the recent takeovers of bmi and Brussels Airlines by IAG (parent company of Iberia and British Airways) and Lufthansa, respectively.[52]
On 20 June 2012, Aer Lingus issued a press release stating that, having reviewed Ryanair's proposed offer, the company board rejects it and advises the company's shareholders not to take any action in relation to it. The statement pointed out that any offer from Ryanair was unlikely to be capable of completion due to, firstly, the EU Commission's 2007 decision to block the airline's bid for Aer Lingus at the time, and, secondly, the UK Competition Commission's ongoing investigation of Ryanair's minority stake in Aer Lingus. Furthermore, the press release stated that the Aer Lingus board believes that Ryanair's offer undervalues Aer Lingus, considering the airline's profitability and balance sheet, including cash reserves in excess of €1 billion (as of 31 March 2012).[53]

Virgin Atlantic wet lease agreement[edit]
In December 2012, following the acquisition of British Midland International by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic were awarded slots to fly domestic routes in the UK from Heathrow Airport, ending the monopoly on these services that BA had held since its successful takeover. Aer Lingus supplies on a wet lease agreement four Airbus A320-214 aircraft (painted in Virgin's colors and with VA plane names but under Irish registration[2]), as well as crew for these services, which operate from London Heathrow to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester. Services began on 31 March 2013 to Manchester.[54]

This wet lease agreement will come to an end in September 2015, as Virgin Atlantic have announced their intention to cancel their domestic services from September 2015.[55]

Long-haul expansion[edit]
In July 2013 expansion into North America was announced launching in 2014. This will include a direct service from Dublin to San Francisco five times weekly and a daily service from Dublin to Toronto to be operated by Air Contractors with Boeing 757s on behalf of the airline. It was also announced that transatlantic services from Shannon to Boston and New York (which up to now only operated three times weekly during the summer season) will operate daily all year round from January 2014 to Boston and from March 2014 to New York; however, the airline would lease Boeing 757 aircraft from Air Contractors to operate these routes, rather than using their Airbus A330 aircraft as they had done before.[56] Also, the service to Washington Dulles airport is set to resume, on a four-times-weekly basis, with effect from 1 May 2015.[57]

Christoph Mueller to step down in 2015[edit]
On 18 July 2014, Aer Lingus said it had "been agreed" between the company and Mr Mueller that he would step down as CEO and director in May 2015. The airline's board said it would now commence a process to select and appoint a new CEO and executive director. He will be joining Malaysia Airlines as part of the restructuring exercise made to Malaysia Airlines. [58]

IAG takeover bid (2014/2015)[edit]
On 14 December 2014, International Airlines Group (Owners of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling) launched a €1bn takeover-bid (€2.30 per-share) for Aer Lingus Group plc. The offer was rejected on the 16 December 2014 by Aer Lingus' Board, with Aer Lingus commenting that the offer was, "preliminary, highly conditional and non-binding." It was further noted, "The board has reviewed the proposal and believes that it fundamentally undervalues Aer Lingus and its attractive prospects. Accordingly, the proposal was rejected..."[59]

On 9 January 2015, Aer Lingus rejected a second-bid from IAG, proposing a €2.40 per-share takeover.[60]

On 24 January 2015, IAG launched a third-bid for Aer Lingus proposing a €2.55 per-share takeover offer, totalling close to €1.4bn.[61]

On 27 January 2015, Aer Lingus' Board announced that, "the financial terms of IAG's third proposal for the airline are at a level it is willing to recommend..", Aer Lingus said it noted, "IAG's intentions regarding the future of the company, in particular that Aer Lingus would operate as a separate business with its own brand, management and operations