Ryanair has made a fresh takeover bid for Irish rival Aer Lingus, but at considerably less than the value of its bid two years ago.

The low-cost giant has offered 748 million euros (£620 million) for Ireland’s flag-carrier. Two years ago it made a bid worth £1 billion that was rebuffed by Aer Lingus and vetoed by European competition authorities. Ryanair already owns just under 30% of Aer Lingus.

In a statement, Ryanair said it would operate the pair as separate companies. However, a takeover would allow it to cut services on the many short-haul routes on which it currently competes against Aer Lingus.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Aer Lingus has been marginalised as most European Union flag carriers consolidate. This proposed merger will form one Irish airline group with the financial strength to compete with Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa.”