Aer Lingus job loss fears are nonsense, says airline chief

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Fears of thousands of job losses at Irish airline Aer Lingus if the owner of British Airways wins its £1bn bid for the carrier are nonsense, it has been claimed.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA parent the International Airlines Group (IAG), rejected comparisons with the 2,500 job cuts that hit the Spanish carrier Iberia after it was bought out by the global airline company.

The trade union Impact, which represents some pilots, cabin crew and ground staff at Aer Lingus, said if the deal went through it would result in up to 1,200 jobs being slashed in Ireland.

“That’s complete nonsense,” Mr Walsh said.

“We’ve been very clear. And it’s important to be honest. There certainly would be some jobs in Aer Lingus today in admin areas that would be duplicated by admin roles that we’ve got elsewhere. We would be looking to reduce in the head office, in admin areas, some jobs.

“But the big story is that we would grow the airline.”

Mr Walsh suggested that about 500 jobs could be added to the Aer Lingus payroll – pilots, cabin crew, engineers and mechanics –with new aircraft being added to the fleet each year over the next four to five years if the takeover goes through.

He would not be drawn on the exact figure of possible lay-offs in backroom, head office and procurement divisions of the company.

Aer Lingus is understood to have a business plan of its own to add one long haul aircraft per year over the next four years, taking its transatlantic fleet up to 14 aircraft. Mr Walsh said part of IAG’s own business plan would be to double that growth.

IAG was formed from the merger of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia in 2011. It has around 430 aircraft and employs more than 60,000 people.

A restructuring programme at the previously loss-making Iberia has seen 2,500 staff leave the airline under a voluntary redundancy programme.

IAG tabled a £1bn offer for Aer Lingus in recent weeks with the Irish carrier’s board prepared to accept it at 2.55 euros (£1.90) a share, but the Dublin Government is a significant player in the proposals as it holds a 25.1 per cent stake in the carrier.

Currently, Aer Lingus directly employs 3,900 people, mostly in Dublin, with 2,100 of these described as ground staff in areas such as clerical, operative and back office roles.