Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary sees a rising chance that a no-deal Brexit will temporarily ground flights between the UK and EU.
At a media event in London today, O'Leary noted that the parties were "running out of time" to reach an agreement covering aviation before March 2019, and that even Brexiteers now admitted a hard Brexit was more likely.
He highlights the lack of progress in developing a bilateral successor to the open-skies deal, observing that the 27 members of the EU had proven "remarkably united" in refusing to be "carved out" into agreeing separate air-access treaties with the UK.
O'Leary identifies a risk that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, aircraft would not be able operate between the UK and mainland Europe for a "couple of days or a couple of weeks" – but no longer than that, because "politically I think it will get solved pretty damned quickly".
A transition deal that keeps existing air-access rights in place between the UK and EU until 2021 is still the "most likely outcome" to the negotiations, O'Leary believes. He describes this as the best solution he could envisage for Ryanair and other European airlines.
Ryanair is prepared to restrict the voting rights of its UK and US shareholders in order to satisfy EU ownership rules under which a company registered within the bloc must be majority owned by European nationals, says O'Leary.
Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair's marketing chief, says the carrier will grow capacity to London airports 5% next year, but notes that, pre-Brexit, it had forecast growth of more than 10%.