Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said Wednesday that the risk of a no-deal Brexit grounding flights across Europe is being “underestimated.”
Aviation is one sector that could be the most severely impacted after Britain leaves the European Union next spring. That’s because there is no default fallback option for the industry if there is no deal on future ties.
The U.K. has said it wishes to remain part of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after leaving the bloc on March 29, 2019 but it is not yet clear whether this will be possible.
“We remain concerned at the increasing risk of a hard (no-deal) Brexit in March 2019,” Ryanair’s O’Leary said in a statement Wednesday.
“While we hope that a 21-month transition agreement from March 2019 will be agreed, recent events in the U.K. have added uncertainty, and we believe that the risk of a hard Brexit (which could lead to flights being grounded for a period of days or weeks) is being underestimated,” he added.
In the absence of an agreement for the aviation industry, a no-deal Brexit scenario could result in flights being grounded. It would also mean Britain would need to takeover safety and regulatory processes currently being managed by the EASA.
Speaking at a press conference in central London, O’Leary also said that while the airline did not want any strikes, it would continue to put up with them in order to defend its low-cost flying business model.
His comments come after threats of further staff walkouts across Europe.
The row over pay and conditions at Europe’s largest low-cost carrier follows a flurry of strikes at the Irish airline in recent months, with walkouts taking place in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
On Wednesday, pilots and cabin crew at Ryanair in Germany started another full-day walkout to put pressure on management amid labor talks. The carrier was forced to cancel 150 flights out of 400 scheduled to fly to and from Germany because of the 24-hour strikes.
Affected passengers were set to be offered alternative flights, the airline said. In a statement, Ryanair said Wednesday’s strikes would damage its business in Europe’s largest economy, before adding the action was “unnecessary.”
In August, the airline struck a deal with Irish pilots and said it was hopeful over securing further deals over the coming weeks.
However, seven trade unions representing cabin crews in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have since threatened to strike later this month — unless Ryanair promises to improve working conditions.
The unions warned it would be “the biggest strike action” the company had ever seen.