Outspoken boss of low cost carrier Ryanair has claimed that Brexit will have no lasting impact on his business. Michael O’Leary says that while the UK is ‘nuts’ to leave the EU, he is confident that Open Skies will remain in place. He also warns of the package holiday market being ‘screwed’, and has claimed Norwegian Air will be next to go bust.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has, in the past, been fairly vocal about his opposition to Brexit. Back in 2018, he issued warnings that Ryanair planes could be grounded for up to three weeks in the event of a no-deal situation. In fact, the company even paused share buybacks the same year in lieu of the uncertainty of the situation.
But now, O’Leary seems to have changed his tune, claiming that, overall, Brexit will have no major impact on the business of Ryanair. Speaking in an interview to Reuters, he said,
“If you look out long enough, I don’t think Brexit has any effect on our business.”
While he admitted that securing a trade deal would be essential, he was vocal in his belief that this would happen and that the Open Skies aviation agreement would remain in place.
‘Nuts’ to do it
A fiercely committed oppositionist to Brexit, it seems O’Leary has finally come to terms with the fact that it’s going ahead whether he likes it or not. In the interview, he added,
“The UK’s national interest is best served, I think, by staying in the European Union. It’s nuts to leave it, but if you are going to leave, the first thing you’ve got to do on the day after you leave is renegotiate a trade deal with the European Union.”
Previously, Ryanair secured a UK AOC in preparation for Brexit. It’s still unclear even at this late stage whether it will be needed.
Back in December, legislation was passed which secured air traffic rights between the EU and UK until the end of October 2020. Other issues have also been tackled, such as upholding EASA standards of safety for at least two years, and the applicability of AOCs and pilots licenses in the UK. However, that doesn’t mean that UK aviation is safe from a no-deal Brexit fallout.
Norwegian is next
Although not wholly a casualty of Brexit, Thomas Cook airlines’ bankruptcy was effectively expedited by the current political situation. A weak pound against the dollar and an equally weak euro made it even more expensive to pay for jet fuel and leasing contracts, which undoubtedly made the airline’s poor financial position even more untenable.
But O’Leary says it’s not over yet. During his interview, he lashed out at the CAA for not coming to the rescue of Thomas Cook sooner, but made no bones about the part Brexit had to play. He reiterated his stance that, within the next five years, there will be just four carriers dominating Europe, one of which will be Ryanair.
Not for the first time, he said that Norwegian would be the next airline to go bust. Previously, in 2018, he had claimed that the airline was doomed to failure after it lost what O’Leary called a ‘heroic amount of money’.
But Norwegian has hit back, telling the Mirror that,
“These comments are from the same broken record and have no root in reality. Norwegian continues to fly an increasing number of passengers as we continue to focus on building a strong, sustainable and profitable business to benefit our customers, employees and shareholders.”
Rounding off his latest outspoken tirade, O’Leary stated that the package holiday market was ‘screwed’, claiming that nobody under the age of 40 books package holidays anymore. While that doesn’t bode well for Thomas Cook rival TUI, the Guardian reports that ABTA, the UK’s travel industry body, says demand for package trips remains solid.
What do you think? Is TUI in danger? Will Norwegian be next? And will Ryanair escape Brexit unscathed? Let us know in the comments.