I thank the Chairman and the joint committee for inviting the Aer Lingus team to attend this meeting to discuss the proposed IAG offer to acquire Aer Lingus. We really welcome the opportunity to set out our views on this very important issue.
I will start by stating our position very clearly. My own and the Aer Lingus board's strongly held view is that a combination of Aer Lingus with IAG has a compelling strategic rationale and will deliver significant benefits to Aer Lingus, Aer Lingus's employees, Aer Lingus's customers and Ireland. The board has concluded, based on advice from our financial advisers, that the price of €2.55 per share should be recommended to shareholders.
In recent weeks, we have listened carefully to the public debate regarding IAG's proposal. During this period we have had further detailed discussions with representatives of IAG and the Aer Lingus board now has a greater understanding of IAG's intentions for the future of Aer Lingus and the proposed commitments IAG is prepared to make in regard to Aer Lingus to the Irish Government.
These discussions have further confirmed that it is clearly in IAG's interest to continue to grow Aer Lingus within the IAG group. Aer Lingus being part of IAG represents a hugely positive opportunity for Aer Lingus and Ireland. This deal is about accelerated growth.
This deal is about accelerated growth. It provides real prospects for growth in Aer Lingus, the economy, global connectivity, international trade, tourism and employment. I am surprised it can be represented in any other way. It is on the basis of these understandings that I and the Aer Lingus board give our strong support to the proposed transaction. The Aer Lingus team met last week with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and the interdepartmental group established by the Minister. We set out the board's view on the benefits of the proposed deal. I will summarise these meetings regarding the benefits of IAG's proposal and key commercial drivers. The proposal is viewed by the board as compelling and a significantly positive opportunity for Aer Lingus, its employees, its customers and Ireland. Aer Lingus as part of IAG will enhance Ireland's position as a natural hub linking Europe and North America. Ireland's location as the westernmost point in Europe makes it a natural gateway to connect the combined populations of Europe and North America. Aer Lingus believes IAG's proposal can enable Ireland to become a central hub for European traffic across the Atlantic, resulting in better utilisation of the infrastructure investment in Irish airports.
The market between Europe and North America is about 75 million people per annum. Increasing our share of this traffic, which is currently at 2%, to even 4 or 5% would mean bringing an additional 1 to 2 million passengers per year through Ireland, which would have huge positive benefits for Aer Lingus and its employees and for Irish airports and their employees and a myriad of ancillary support services. With Aer Lingus as part of the IAG group, there would potential for the planned growth in transatlantic traffic to be significantly accelerated, with new US destinations added to its network. There is an immediate prospect of accelerating our plans to open two new destinations in North America, one on the east coast and one on the west coast.
Aer Lingus as part of IAG will deliver employment growth. Initial transatlantic traffic and destination growth will create significant numbers of new jobs in Ireland. The new routes would require the acquisition of two more long-range aircraft and would provide at least two hundred direct and highly skilled jobs in Aer Lingus. A multiple of this number would be employed in support services in the general economy and in the tourism sector. Being part of IAG will enhance Aer Lingus's European growth. Aer Lingus short-haul services, including the Dublin, Cork and Shannon to London Heathrow routes, will directly benefit from the sales and marketing activity conducted on its behalf by British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and the Oneworld partner sales forces. This will strengthen the positions of the Cork and Shannon to Heathrow routes and provide additional visitor traffic to the southern and mid-west regions and the rest of the country. Irish tourism will also benefit from greater exposure to the frequent flyer programme of Oneworld members, particularly British Airways and American Airlines.
Expected benefits to Aer Lingus's Atlantic and European network, if Aer Lingus were part of IAG, include better connectivity to and from Ireland. Being part of IAG will also allow greater access to a global cargo network. Aer Lingus's cargo business will benefit from the global network reach and sales channels of IAG cargo business. The cargo network enhancement is expected to deliver significant benefits and additional options to Irish businesses, particularly the pharmaceutical sector.
Aer Lingus as part of IAG will be a separate operating business and the Aer Lingus brand will continue and flourish. Aer Lingus has confirmed IAG's intentions to preserve Aer Lingus as a separately operating business within the group, with its own brand, management, head office and operations. Willie Walsh confirmed this strongly and publicly to this committee last week.
It is the strong view of the Aer Lingus board that the prospect of Aer Lingus being part of IAG has compelling, strategic and commercial logic for Aer Lingus. It would have significantly positive benefits for Aer Lingus and for Ireland, and the board is strongly supportive of the Government's two-airline policy. Following a combination with IAG, Aer Lingus will have more attractive growth options that will significantly benefit Aer Lingus as a company, its employees, its customers, the tourism sector, Irish business and industry and the airports where Aer Lingus operates.
We are fully aware of concerns expressed by political parties. Aer Lingus is willing to meet individual parties in order to clarify our position further. We believe this is a very good opportunity for Aer Lingus and Ireland. I hope we can give it the collective support it needs and deserves.