Ryanair Chief Financial Officier, Neil Sorahan, has warned that, without an early agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union regarding the aviation sector, airlines might have no choice but to suspend flights between the UK and the EU.
Currently, European airlines may operate routes between airports located in the Common Aviation Area (CAA), namely EU Member States plus some neighboring countries like Morocco, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Chances for the UK to continue being part of the European “Open Skies” policy are low, given that it would imply compliance with the freedom of movement principle and acknowledgement of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Theresa May’s Government must quickly detail its plans on how to regulate the future relationship with the EU in the aviation sector, Sorahan added, so that airlines may plan their future operations. Major airlines usually schedule their flights 12 months in advance; this means that, without an agreement or at least a clear indication on how the aviation sector will be regulated after Brexit, some companies may also decide to stop flights within the UK. For Dublin-based Ryanair this would mean losing only 2% of its business.
Other airlines seem to be more cautious as to the possible impact of Brexit on the aviation sector; KLM’s Chief Executive shared the concern but added that, in any case, the company would be able to keep flying to the UK thanks to bilateral agreements establishing flying rights between the Netherlands and the UK dating back to the 1960s.
Finally, Sorahan said that if Ryanair could not continue business in the UK after Brexit, it would pursue growth opportunities in Italy – where it is already the number one carrier for number of passengers – Spain and Eastern Europe, while looking at possibilities of increasing operations in Scandinavia and Germany.
A UK Government spokeswoman has acknowledged the importance of the aviation sector to the UK’s economy and given assurances that the Government will do its best to achieve the best possible deal to ensure the industry’s future success.