Disruption to flights between Britain and the European Union is becoming more likely as Brexit approaches in March 2019, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said.
Mr O’Leary was speaking after a meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling about the need to reach an “open sky” deal between the UK and Europe ahead of leaving the EU.
“It is now more likely there will be a disruption to flights,” he said.
“I think there will be disruption around September, October 2018.”
Airlines say they need a new deal to replace current arrangements by September or October next year to be able to provide scheduled flights in the months after Britain exits the bloc.
Mr O’Leary said some European airlines were against the UK getting a favourable deal, singling out the French and the Germans.
“It’s odds against a deal being done in advance of Christmas 2018 because it is in the Europeans’ interest to not have a deal done,” Mr O’Leary told journalists in London.
“And all hell will be kicking off over here in the UK.”
He said that in the absence of a deal by the autumn of next year, “we and other airlines will have to start cancelling flights or taking flights off sale for the summer of ’19.”
The Brexit negotiations are especially time sensitive for the airline industry because of the need for airlines and regulators to finalise flight timetables many months in advance.
Mr O’Leary has been warning since January that a failure by London and Brussels to agree a new bilateral aviation deal by late 2018 could lead to a total freeze on flights between Britain and the European Union.
“Our concern is that the UK doesn’t have time to negotiate this,” he said.
“All we’ve got back thus far from the British government is, ‘We’re optimistic that a British deal will be done.’ Great, I hope you’re right but I don’t share your optimism,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said he had had a “very good meeting” with Mr Grayling, but declined to give any details except to say: “We emphasised the need that there has to be an agreement reached by the UK by about September, October 2018.”
Mr Grayling told an industry gathering last month that while he understands the desire for a rapid deal between the UK and the EU, it would be “some time yet before we can deliver that certainty”.