Over the past number of days the Abu Dhabi based carrier has increased its stake in Ireland’s national airline from 2.9 to 4.1 per cent, spending around €10 million to do so.
At the same time Ryanair is facing an uphill struggle to hang onto it’s 29% share in the company following a UK Competition Commission ruling that it should reduce this to 5%. One appeal has already failed and there could yet be a fire sale of those shares.
Etihad and Aer Lingus have a shared passion for sport and both were involved in the sponsorship of an international hurling tournament in September 2013 that brought in teams from around the world to play in Galway.
Etihad are the long term sponsors of the All Ireland Hurling Championship since taking over from Guinness in 2008. It signed a five year extension of the partnership, including naming rights to the Etihad Skyline Tour at Croke Park in 2012 and there is speculation that this year’s All Ireland Hurling Final may be broadcast live on Etihad’s international in flight network.
If the Ryanair fight to remain as Aer Lingus’ major shareholder does end in defeat, it may be that conversations on the side of a hurling pitch could yet prove crucial to the relationship building that could see them replaced by one of the world’s largest carriers.