Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has said he would ground its aircraft after the UK leaves the EU to make voters “rethink” their Brexit decision.
Speaking at the Airlines for Europe (A4E) Summit in Brussels, O’Leary told his fellow airline leaders that he wants to make people realise they are “no longer going to have cheap holidays”, according to multiple newspapers reporting on the event.
He continued: “I think it’s in our interests – not for a long period of time – that the aircraft are grounded. It’s only when you get to that stage where you’re going to persuade the average British voter that you were lied to in the entire Brexit debate.”
He said the British public was “promised” that nothing would change if the country left the EU, but warned that there will be ‘fundamental’ changes and there would be a “real crisis” due to disruption to flights between the UK and EU.
New Easyjet CEO Johan Lundgren joked that his airline would pick up the slack if Ryanair grounded its aircraft, but Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr agreed that the industry could use its power to “prove to the British how wrong the decision was”.
O’Leary has repeatedly warned that flights would have to be cancelled after March 2019 unless the UK government reaches an agreement with the EU during Brexit negotiations, and he says such a deal has to be made by September this year so airlines can plan their summer 2019 schedules.
The Irish airline announced in January that a new subsidiary had applied for a UK Air Operators’ Certificate in order to continue operating within the country after Brexit.
Last week, prime minister Theresa May said the UK would be willing to continue paying for membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after leaving the union, while transport secretary Chris Grayling has said on numerous occasions that aviation will remain a critical part of the UK economy after Brexit.