The chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG) Willie Walsh says his company's offer for Aer Lingus is the best way to guarantee job security at the airline.
Mr Walsh was speaking after the Cabinet last night approved an offer for its 25% stake, on foot of new guarantees about Heathrow landing slots, connectivity and its future at Irish airports.
The Dáil is currently debating the bid and will vote on it tomorrow.
Opposition TDs and unions have hit out at the government for approving the takeover because of fears over jobs.
Mr Walsh says Aer Lingus is 'vulnerable' and this takeover is the only way to secure employment at the airline.
Speaking to Lunchtime, Mr Walsh said this represents a new and exciting opportunity for Aer Lingus:
Earlier, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he believes the government has achieved the best deal for the country, after agreeing to sell the State share in Aer Lingus.
Speaking at a Young Entrepreneur event in Dublin this morning, Mr Kenny said the government secured strong guarantees for selling its stake.
IAG has provided a seven-year guarantee that all of Aer Lingus' slots at London Heathrow will be used for Irish routes, as well as guarantees about connectivity.
It is said that by December 2016, there would be net employment growth at Aer Lingus of some 150 employees, with up to 635 new jobs by 2020.
While Aer Lingus’ existing slots at Heathrow will continue to be held by Aer Lingus for an unlimited timeframe.
The agreement also sets out that IAG and Aer Lingus could deliver up to 2.4 million more passengers, four additional destinations in North America and eight additional aircraft to its fleet.
IAG has also agreed with the government to include legally binding commitments that protect the Aer Lingus brand, and its head office location in Ireland.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe told Newstalk Breakfast this is still subject to approval by the EU Commission.
Former Aer Arann majority owner, Padraig O Ceidigh, spoke to the Pat Kenny Show about the proposed sale - which he said was the "right move" by the government.
He says the airline needs significant investment in its fleet to remain competitive, and this would probably have resulted in more shares being issued and thus a dilution of the government's stake regardless.
However, Mr O Ceidigh has concerns about the share price which has been agreed upon. He believes the 25% owned by the government is worth twice what is offered as the 23 Heathrow slots are not counted on the balance sheet.
Despite government guarantees which would keep these slots in Aer Lingus ownership, he says IAG may simply lease them out to other airlines. "If this was a boxing match, Willie Walsh won," he said.
'Major tourism boost'
Tourism Ireland has welcomed the news and says the decision will provide a major boost to their sector - particularly in visitors from North America.
However Shannon Chamber of Commerce is one of many bodies that had raised concerns about the impact any sale of the airline could have on regional economies.
President of the body, Kevin Thompstone, has welcomed the guarantees about Aer Lingus' Heathrow slots contained in the deal.
But says the time frame of the commitment is short.
However, Sinn Fein said that commitments on the Heathrow slots would be no use to Ireland in the future.
And The IMPACT trade union said it was "bad for jobs" and for Aer Lingus workers.
While Owen Reidy of SIPTU says a lack of certainty about Aer Lingus jobs means they will vigorously oppose the sale.