The low-cost airline chief executive also says Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has offered “nonsensical answers” on Brexit.
Michael O'Leary has issued a stark warning on Brexit
Ryanair’s chief executive has issued his starkest warning yet on the impact of a “no-deal” Brexit on aviation.
Michael O’Leary told Sky News there was every chance that planes would be grounded in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Mr O’Leary, who has continually been more downbeat about Brexit than most other aviation bosses, also complained of a lack of communication from the UK government.
He said he had not met with Chris Grayling for 10 months and described the transport secretary as offering “nonsensical answers” in simply saying he could not believe there would not be a good outcome to Brexit negotiations.
Stressing that he did not wish to make any political points, or enter a political debate, Mr O’Leary said he was satisfied with Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal – the so-called “Chequers” proposals – because it provided a reasonable transition period for businesses to prepare.
And he called on rebel Conservative MPs opposing Chequers to come up with some alternative proposals of their own rather than “kicking the can down the road”.
Mr O’Leary said that, if flights were grounded, he expected the situation to last for only “one or two days” because it would be an unacceptable situation for both the UK and the EU.
He said both would find it difficult to explain to the public and would be “politically unassailable”.
He added: “All of us in business want to see a good outcome for Brexit.
“The problem is we are getting very little clarity from certainly the UK political leadership here and we are getting closer and closer to the date.”
Ryanair is Europe's biggest low-cost airline
Flights between the UK and the rest of the EU are currently governed by the “Open Skies” agreement that allows airlines to fly freely between EU destinations.
It has helped Ireland’s Ryanair become Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier and its British rival Easyjet to emerge as the next-largest such player.
Both have had to take out Air Operator Certificates (AOCs), approvals from national aviation authorities, in order for them to continue flying post-Brexit – Easyjet from the EU and Ryanair from the UK.
Mr O’Leary said on Wednesday that Ryanair was making good progress in obtaining its AOC from Britain.
But he said the EU’s rules governing airline ownership created another administrative headache for Ryanair from Brexit.
These require airlines operating routes within the EU to prove that it is owned and controlled by EU nationals – with at least half of its shares owned by EU nationals.
Mr O’Leary said this would be problematic for Ryanair because, after Brexit, British shareholders would no longer be classed as EU nationals.
Because the airline also has a large proportion of American shareholders, this would potentially mean Ryanair no longer had a majority of EU-based shareholders after Brexit, putting it in breach of the rules.
He said Ryanair’s solution to this, if the situation went unresolved, would be to temporarily disenfranchise the airline’s non-EU investors so they would not be able to take part in shareholder votes.
He said he found the situation frustrating but that non-EU shareholders had been sympathetic to the airline’s difficulties.
The airline will operate flights from Stansted to Kiev from the autumn
Mr O’Leary was speaking as Ryanair announced 23 new routes for the autumn and winter. Some of these have already been announced, including ones connecting London Stansted to Lviv and Kiev, the first the airline has run to Ukraine.
More than half of the new routes are from fast-growing Southend Airport and will connect with locations including Alicante, Brest, Milan and Copenhagen.
Mr O’Leary also revealed that Ryanair had submitted a complaint to the European Commission over what it regards as “discrimination” by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) against Stansted.
He said more than half of all delays caused by air traffic control during the first three months of the year were at the airport, with just 10% at Gatwick, while Heathrow suffered no such delays.
He pointed out that British Airways and Easyjet, respectively the biggest airlines at Heathrow and Gatwick, were both shareholders in NATS.
He said he wanted the commission to force NATS to explain why more resources appeared to be being allocated to airports other than Stansted and why the latter appeared to be suffering disproportionately from delays.