Ryanair stresses urgency of post-Brexit aviation deal

Ryanair stresses urgency of post-Brexit aviation deal

Ryanair has accused the government of failing to grasp the urgency of striking a deal for post-Brexit aviation, warning the industry needs a year’s notice to plan schedules after the UK leaves the EU

Chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, cautioned that other EU member states could block the UK’s continued access to the EU’s ‘open skies’ area.

Prime minister Theresa May has said she will start the exit process under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty – which sets a two-year time limit for talks – next month.

“There isn’t a plan and we need to see a plan.”

Jacobs acknowledged that the UK government had said it was inconceivable the UK would leave the liberalised European Open Skies area following the Brexit negotiations.

But he told the Financial Times: “There isn’t a plan and we need to see a plan. We’re 365 days away from having to know what’s happening with open skies.”

The Department for Transport said it was committed to getting the “best deal possible” from EU exit negotiations.

“We will work closely with the international aviation community to ensure that this global industry continues to be a major success story for the UK economy,” the DfT said.

Dublin-based Ryanair has scaled back its plans for growth in the UK in response to the Brexit uncertainty.

It said its growth from London airports next winter would slow to 2%, from 10% this winter. The airline is instead deploying new aircraft in Romania, Bulgaria and other countries.

Jacobs hinted that routes might have to be cut if there was no clarity about an EU deal within a year.

“If we don’t know this time next year, what are airlines going to do?” he asked. “Are we going to have to make significant capacity cuts?”

The pressure to strike a deal with the EU reflected the fact that airlines planned their schedules a year in advance, Ryanair said.

Airlines will be finalising a year from now their summer schedules starting from the end of March 2019, the period when the UK is aiming to leave the EU.

Open skies gives all EU airlines the right to fly between member states and domestically within member states.

But Jacobs pointed out that member states submit under open skies to the authority of the European Court of Justice, something the UK government has ruled out for any post-Brexit settlement.

He said the most likely scenarios for the UK were striking individual, bilateral aviation agreements with EU member states or a deal with the EU as a whole.

A deal with the whole EU would require all member states’ agreement, meaning individual countries’ grievances could hold up an agreement.

“Europe and the UK want open skies to continue,” Jacobs said. “That’s a rational statement. Are both sides going to be rational when negotiations start? We don’t know.”

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