Ryanair has applied for an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in the UK so that it can continue to operate normally if the Brexit negotiations fail.
The airline confirmed on 2 January 2018 to have filed with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) a request to launch a subsidiary “Ryanair UK”, which in case of a hard Brexit in March 2019 “may be necessary for three domestic routes” connecting its London-Stansted base to the airports of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.
These routes represent only 2% of its total revenues, but the move is not a surprise, as CEO Michael O’Leary has repeatedly denounced the lack of progress in the negotiations on the exit of the European Union from the United Kingdom, particularly on whether to maintain or not an open sky agreement.
Last July, O’Leary even mentioned the possibility of a total absence of flights between the United Kingdom and Europe “for a few weeks or months“, since no scenario is planned in air transport in case of failure of the negotiations (unlike most industries that can continue under WTO rules). Ryanair is present at 19 UK airports.
The CAA declined to comment, although a notice published on its website on Tuesday highlighted that it had received an application from Ryanair UK Limited for a Type A licence – the category required by large airlines. A spokesman for the government told Sky News yesterday that “aviation is crucial to the UK economy, and we are determined to get the best deal possible for Britain.”
The Hungarian low-cost Wizz Air had already applied for a British AOC last October, to continue operating in the country regardless of the consequences of Brexit. Wizz Air serves nine UK airports, with a base in London-Luton. And in the other direction, easyJet has opened a subsidiary in Austria (and thus in the EU), called easyJet Europe, which will enable it to continue operating between the countries of the European Union.