In a recent interview with Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, he warned that he will force British shareholders to sell their stock in the budget airline if there is a hard Brexit.
O’Leary has repeatedly claimed that flights between Britain and continental Europe are likely to be grounded in April next year in the event of a failure to strike a Brexit deal.
Ryanair has already started warning on passengers’ tickets of the risk that flights from April 1, 2019, could be cancelled. The interviewer has said that to keep his planes flying, O’Leary will need to demonstrate to European regulators that the majority of his investors are EU citizens and explained that at present, 56 per cent of its shareholders are European, and within that about 20 per cent are from the UK.
The airline boss is examining a number of ways to give incentives to non-EU investors to dump Ryanair shares. If he cannot persuade investors to cash out, he will force a sale. The Irish airline has applied for a British operating certificate to continue its domestic UK flights. O’Leary admitted that rules requiring European airlines to be majority owned by European shareholders are a ‘challenge’. O’Leary said he believes Willie Walsh, boss of British Airways owner IAG, is ‘ducking’ the ownership issue raised by Brexit, reiterating his claim that it will force IAG to sell Aer Lingus and Iberia. IAG has not said what percentage of its shareholders are European.
In a separate article, the Ryanair boss talked about recent difficulties with Ryanair pilots. To avoid strikes over Christmas Mr O’Leary was forced to recognise union representation for pilots. A new pay deal with pilots and cabin crew will add €100m (£88m) to Ryanair’s costs, increasing pilots’ pay by 20 per cent. He said the airline had been hit with ‘laughable demands’ such as paying pilots €1,000 each when a flight finished after midnight.