Outspoken Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary once again reminded the industry just how damning Brexit is going to be on aviation.
Time and time again, O’Leary had insisted that flights between the UK and Europe would most likely be grounded in April 2019 should the two sides fail to strike a deal.
Ryanair has already taken the initiative to warn passengers of the risk that flights from April 1, 2019 could possibly get cancelled.
To keep his planes in the air, O’Leary would need to prove to European regulators that most of his investors are citizens of the EU. At the moment, 56% of the firm’s shareholders are in fact, European, and around 20% are from the UK.
The Ryanair chief is taking a closer look at a number of ways to offer incentives to non-EU investors to dump Ryanair shares.
Europe’s largest low-cost carrier already has a standing regulation that states any shareholders based outside the EU can sell stock only to European investors.
Airlines have every right to levy such limitations under their articles of association to keep their right to fly under international policies, which depend on an airline’s legal nationality.
If O’Leary cannot sway investors to cash out, he will force a sale.
“If you don’t do it, we will sell them on your behalf and remit you the money,” he was quoted as saying.
The Irish airline has applied for a British operating certificate to keep its domestic UK flights. O’Leary acknowledged that rules asking European airlines to be majority owned by European shareholders are a “challenge”.
He pointed a stern finger at Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of British Airways owner International Airlines Group, of “ducking” the ownership issue raised by Brexit, reiterating his claim that it will force IAG to sell Aer Lingus and Iberia.
So far, IAG has refused to disclose just what percentage of its owners is European.
“Willie keeps kicking the can down the road and saying, ‘It’ll be all right on the night.’ It won’t be,” O’Leary remarked.
Budget carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet have found their footing in Europe’s liberalized airspace, which got deregulated back in the 1990s when the flying barriers that stood between nations were eliminated.
Airlines such as British Airways also lean on the open skies pact that allows flights between the EU and US.
O’Leary said that not being able to replicate this deal when Brexit comes along would be reason to halt flights for “a week or a month.”
“There’s every likelihood that there is going to be the prospect of no flights on the first of April next year,” he said.
“Ultimately there’s going to be a disruption to flights, because that’s the only way you’re going to get the British public off its arse to realize that this is a mess.”
O’Leary also alleged British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of having “no plan whatsoever.”