Talks between Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary and the UK transport secretary Chris Grayling "went well" on Wednesday, according to reports.
Mr O’Leary, whose company flies more than 30 million British passengers a year, has warned that flights between the UK and EU could halt in 2019 if there is a hard Brexit with no deal.
The airline boss met Mr Grayling in London to voice his concerns about Brexit’s potential impact on aviation. Ryanair did not comment on the meeting, but reports afterward stated that it went well.
Mr O’Leary fears that the British government does not recognise the risks posed by the UK’s exit from the EU to the industry. He has warned several times recently that Ryanair may have to cancel flights to and from the UK ahead of March 2019, the scheduled date for the country to leave the bloc, if there is no certainty about an aviation deal.
Mr O’Leary argues that the UK’s exit from the EU would also force it out of the open-skies regime, which allows airlines to fly freely throughout the bloc.
This would have to be replaced with a bilateral deal between the UK and EU, and it is the lack of any sign of progress on this front that concerns Mr O’Leary, who points out that the British government has yet to “get out of the starting blocks” in the Brexit talks.
"There is a real prospect – and we have to deal with this – that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months, beyond March 2019," he told the European Parliament transport committee recently.
Mr Grayling told an aviation industry gathering last month that although he understood the need for a rapid deal between the UK and EU it would be some time before the British government could “deliver that certainty”.
His department insists that aviation is a priority in the Brexit talks, and that the British government is pursuing open access to EU skies.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that an Italian government plan to avoid breaking up Alitalia could hinder Ryanair's bid to buy the troubled flag carrier.
Ryanair is one of 10 parties bidding to buy Alitalia from administration. It has been suggested that the airline is primarily interested in taking over the short-haul business, but would feed passengers to the carrier’s long-distance operations.
The state commissioners running Alitalia have specified that they are seeking bids for all of the company.