RYANAIR CEO Michael O’Leary has said Europe will only have five airlines in the near future – as he considers buying German carrier Air Berlin. Speaking to Reuters , Mr O’Leary said he would be interested in bidding for the insolvent German carrier, but Ryanair needs access to more data on the airline’s finances. Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline after Lufthansa, filed for insolvency earlier this month but flights are continuing after they received a loan from the German Government. “We would be very happy to bid for the whole of Air Berlin, which is generally a short-haul, domestic, intra-EU carrier. “But we don’t know how much restructuring it will take, how much money is it losing, why is it losing so much money in a market where we make money,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said Ryanair also needed information on Air Berlin’s leases, employment contracts and terms with airports before it could determine how much restructuring it would need. While Ryanair uses Boeing 737 planes, Air Berlin currently flies Airbus A320s, but Mr O’Leary said Ryanair would use those Airbus aircraft to continue Air Berlin’s operations in the event of a takeover.
The possible take-over of the German carrier would follow the Ryanair acquisition of budget carrier Buzz from KLM in 2003, and Mr O’Leary said the Irish airline are ‘keen to play a role in the changes going on in the European airline industry.’ He also did not rule out taking on insolvent Italian airline Alitalia if it can be restructured. “We are clearly going to play a role in the consolidation of the European airline industry, given that we’re the biggest airline in Europe,” he said. He predicted that in five years’ time there would be only four or five airline groups in Europe – Ryanair, Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, IAG – who own British Airways and Aer Lingus – and possibly easyJet. “Everything will all get consolidated into four or five big groups. It’s always hard to predict the demise of an individual airline but that’s what happens,” he said.