Ryanair warns of Brexit threat to flights as profits soar

Low-cost carrier Ryanair has posted a jump in first-quarter profits, but again warned that Brexit could cause it to ground flights and cancel holidays unless a deal with the European Union is struck.

Ryanair is led by chief executive Michael O'Leary. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The airline reported a 13 per cent rise in revenues to €1.9 billion (£1.7bn) for the three months to the end of June, while profits soared 55 per cent to €397 million.

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Ryanair was boosted by the timing of Easter, and saw a 12 per cent rise in customer numbers to 35 million.

Average fares rose 1 per cent in the period, but it expects fares to fall by 5 per cent in the first six months of the year and by 8 per cent in the second amid tough competition in the sector and as Ryanair passes on lower fuel costs.

“We expect the pricing environment to remain very competitive,” said chief executive Michael O’Leary.

However, the group again sounded the alarm bell on Britain’s divorce from the EU as Tory ministers scramble to strike an aviation deal with the EU before March 2019.

Ryanair said: “While we continue to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU Open Skies agreement, we caution that, should the UK leave, there may not be sufficient time, or goodwill on both sides, to negotiate a timely replacement bilateral which could result in a disruption of flights between the UK and Europe for a period of time from April 2019 onwards.

“If we do not have certainty about the legal basis for the operation of flights between the UK and the EU by autumn 2018, we may be forced to cancel flights and move some, or all, of our UK-based aircraft to Continental Europe from April 2019 onwards.”

Rival budget carrier EasyJet recently applied for a new air operator’s certificate (AOC) in Austria to allow it to continue flying in the European Union after Brexit.

The airline, whose chief executive Carolyn McCall is leaving to take the top job at broadcaster ITV, said the accreditation process was “well advanced” and it hopes to receive the AOC “in the near future”. EasyJet Europe would be headquartered in Vienna.