Ryanair’s warning of “big disruption” at the end of next year due to Brexit has been dismissed as “scaremongering” by a senior UK industry figure.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, claimed this month: “The Europeans will engineer disruption.”
Speaking after a meeting with transport secretary Chris Grayling at the start of August, O’Leary warned: “They [Europeans] have realised they can yank the tail of everyone here by delaying on flying rights.”
He said: “There will be big disruption up to Christmas 2018.”
But a senior UK aviation figure hit back at O’Leary’s claim, saying: “It’s not helpful. Consumers are going to be looking at this, thinking ‘We want to book holidays and flights’ and we get Europe’s largest airline in scaremongering mode.”
He said: “It’s a win-win for Ryanair. If it all goes tits up, O’Leary can say ‘I told you so’. And if it all goes fine, he will say it is because of Ryanair.”
The same figure suggested the government was not impressed by Ryanair’s highly publicised warnings, saying: “It’s an annoyance. But there is an element of saying ‘It’s Michael being Michael’.”
Other industry figures also took issue with Ryanair’s forecast of disruption.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, told Travel Weekly: “We are entirely confident about the government’s engagement with this.
“Connectivity is so important, to the UK and to the 27 EU states. We’re the third-largest aviation market in the world.
“It is a technical issue that needs to be addressed. [But] we are not even at the negotiating stage yet.
“There is a huge flow of Brits into Southern Europe, [and] they don’t want to see that connectivity come to a halt.”
He added: “Airlines are one of the top-tier issues [for the UK government and EU]. Aviation is not a tradeable good – it is an enabler. You can’t ‘gain’ aviation [at a rival’s expense].”
Ryanair dismissed the criticism. A spokesman insisted: “This is not ‘scaremongering’.
“This is genuine concern at the uncertainty which surrounds the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU in March 2019.
“If we do not have certainty about the legal basis for the operation of flights between the UK and the EU by autumn 2018, we may be forced to cancel flights.”
Airlines UK includes British Airways, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Monarch, Thomson Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines, Jet2.com and Norwegian UK among its members.
BA parent IAG, easyJet and Norwegian Air are also members, alongside Ryanair, of Airlines for Europe (A4E), which includes Air France-KLM and Lufthansa.
O’Leary accused Air France-KLM and Lufthansa of having “an interest in disrupting UK flights for six months from September 2018” following his meeting with Grayling.
He said: “There is a huge upside for France and Germany in disrupting our flights. I would be doing the same thing.”
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