Brexit could ground flights to UK warn airline bosses

MEPs in Brussels heard a stark warning from airline bosses Michael O’Leary of Ryanair and Willie Walsh of IAG in a public hearing in front of the Transport Committee in Brussels on Tuesday evening of this week.

Member of the EU Transport Committee Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune, who was representing the EPP group at the hearing, described the warnings on aviation and the fallout from a hard Brexit on aviation as stark.

Speaking after the hearing Clune said Ireland needs to be ready for what will happen in aviation in the run up to Brexit,

“Airlines book flights up to a year in advance. Michael O’Leary has said Ryanair will cancel flights between the UK and the EU if there is no legal framework in place from September 2018 onwards.

“Flights between the UK and the EU currently operate under the Open Skies agreement. A hard Brexit will see the UK exit this deal with no replacement agreement in sight. According to O’Leary there is a real prospect that there will be no flights between the UK and the EU for a period of time after March 2019, when Brexit kicks in.

“This is a worrying predicament for Irish airports who depend on UK flights for their survival. According to the airline boss at the Transport hearing, Ryanair will not wait until March 2019 to decide what to do, and will stop or restrict selling tickets to and from the UK a year in advance of that due to the uncertainty it presents and reallocate aircrafts out of the UK to regional airports across Europe.

“This would have a knock on impact on Irish Tourism and our airports which are heavily dependent on flights to the UK, not to mention our business sector, which depends on quick and easy access to and from UK airports.”

Clune has called for sense to prevail and for UK and EU officials to put the renegotiation of a replacement air agreement between the UK and EU in place before 2018.

“Assuming the UK are pressing ahead with plans for Brexit, we need a comprehensive air transport arrangement between the EU and the UK – otherwise, we are going to see major disruption to air services after September 2018,” she said.