The UK pilots union has criticised Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary after he was quoted as saying Muslim men should be profiled at airports.

The airline’s chief executive told The Times on Saturday that “males of a Muslim persuasion” who are single and travelling alone pose the largest terror threat to airlines.

Ryanair later said O’Leary was “only calling for more effective airport security checks” and denied accusations of racism.

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But the British Airline Pilots Association said: “Once again O’Leary opens his mouth and puts his foot in it.

“Pilots employed by Ryanair, including Muslims, would all want to completely disown these ill-considered remarks.

“What are Muslim staff or passengers supposed to think? He should apologise for the offence he has caused.”

The airline disputed the newspaper’s coverage and said: “No call for extra checks on any group or persons was made.

“Michael was only calling for more effective airport security checks which would do away with much of the unnecessary queues at airport security today for all passengers.

“He apologises sincerely for any offence caused to any group.

In the lengthy interview published in The Times magazine, O’Leary said he would profile passengers.

He was quoted as saying: “Who are the bombers? They are going to be single males travelling on their own. If you are travelling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is zero.

“You can’t say stuff, because it’s racism, but it will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion. Thirty years ago it was the Irish. If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat.”