- Irish airline Ryanair is applying a for licence to operate UK domestic flights after Brexit.
- It will safeguard Ryanair in case the UK and EU cannot strike a deal around aviation rules during Brexit negotiations.
- Wizz Air, which is headquartered in Hungary, also applied for a UK licence in October.
LONDON — Irish airline Ryanair is applying for a UK aviation licence, which would allow it to continue operating domestic flights in the UK regardless of whether or not aviation is included in any Brexit deal.
The budget airline confirmed that it has applied for a so-called UK Air Operator's Certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority. If successful, it would allow Ryanair to operate domestic flights — for example, routes between London and Glasgow — if the UK and EU fail to reach a Brexit agreement on aviation.
The move is thought to be a precautionary measure as the airline's UK domestic operation consist of just three routes. According to Sky News, which first reported the news, these routes account for "less than 2% of total revenues."
"Ryanair today confirmed that a subsidiary company, Ryanair UK, filed an application on 21 December last for an AOC with the CAA in the UK," the airline said in a statement to Sky. "This may be required for Ryanair's three UK domestic routes in the event of a hard Brexit in March 2019."
Ryanair is not the first non-UK airline to confirm an application for a UK AOC since the referendum. Wizz Air, which is headquartered in Hungary, did the same in October.
Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary has been a staunch critic of Brexit and has frequently proffered dire warnings about what Britain's departure from the EU could mean for flying in Europe.
In October 2017, he warned that the government was underestimating the risk of "serious disruption" to flights once Britain leaves the EU.
"There remains a worrying risk of a serious disruption to UK-EU flights in April 2019 unless a timely UK-EU bilateral is agreed in advance of September 2018," he said. "We worry that the UK government continues to underestimate the likelihood of such a flight disruption to/from the UK."
O'Leary said the airline industry needs clarity on a UK-EU Brexit deal by summer 2018 as that is when airlines will publish their schedules for the year ahead.
"Time is running short for the UK to develop a bilateral solution," O'Leary warned.
Britain's Chancellor Philip Hammond said last year that flights between the UK and the European Union could "theoretically" stop on the day Britain officially drops out of the bloc.
News of Ryanair's AOC application came just hours before the airline reported its final passenger numbers for 2017, which showed that it carried a total of 129 million people last year, with 9.3 million flying in December alone, an increase from nine million in December 2016.
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