[caption id="attachment_67432" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Minister Leo Varadkar announced a multi-million euro tourism marketing campaign last week. The minister was joined by Aer Lingus cabin crew member Erika Kelly and Ryanair cabin crew member Gillian Moore."][/caption]
The Abu Dhabi-based airline, Etihad Airways, is looking at buying a stake in Aer Lingus, according to reports.
The Financial Times reported that Etihad had approached the Irish government with a view to buying its 25 percent stake in the former national airline which has several top shareholders including rival Ryanair.
the Irish government has previously indicated its willingness to sell.
Etihad declined to comment on the report.
According to the Irish Times, the Abu Dhabi airline, according to a source, is also said to be in talks with Britain's Virgin Atlantic to join the UK carrier in its bid for BMI, the loss-making unit of Lufthansa, and is discussing a possible stake in Virgin Atlantic.
According to the Irish Independent, the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, said that he would not sell the government's stake for less than €1 per share, which would value the stake at €132.4 million and Aer Lingus at €529.6 million.
The report added, however, that International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, was believed by analysts to be the frontrunner for the purchase of the government's stake. BA chief executive Willie Walsh was a former boss of Aer Lingus.
Etihad's chief executive, James Hogan, met Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin last week, the report added.
It said that Hogan had just announced 100 new jobs for Etihad cabin crew based in Ireland. The carrier currently operates a service between Dublin and Abu Dhabi.