Ryanair, which operates a total of 16 routes from Northern Ireland, has joined a UK airline trade body because of concerns about the impact of Brexit on the aviation industry, the airline announced.
The Dublin-based carrier signed up with Airlines UK as an international airline member, a new tier of membership allowing non-UK carriers to join.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: “We remain concerned at the uncertainty which surrounds the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU in March 2019 and we understand how critical it is that all airlines come together as an industry to lobby for an effective solution for air travel that allows UK-EU flights to operate after April 2019.
“We look forward to working closely with Airlines UK on Brexit and the many other common issues we face including ATC (air traffic control) delays, APD (Air Passenger Duty) and airport charges.”
The single market for aviation, created in the 1990s, means there are no commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU.
Mr O’Leary believes flights between the UK and the EU will be grounded in summer 2019 if no agreement on flights is reached as part of the Brexit negotiations by September next year.
The airline flies to London Stansted, Glasgow and Liverpool from City of Derry Airport. From Belfast International Airport, it flies to 13 routes including Gatwick, Malaga, Berlin and Milan.
It will launch a new route from Belfast to Malta at the end of October.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “Ryanair is the largest airline in Europe with a substantial presence in the UK.
“With so much happening on the policy and regulatory front currently we’re delighted to be able to work more closely with them on issues of mutual interest, including the impact of Brexit on the aviation market access across Europe, campaigning against the damaging and counter-productive Air Passenger Duty, and engaging with industry and Government to resolve the growing problem of disruptive behaviour caused by excessive consumption of alcohol.
“Their membership will further strengthen our ability to advocate on behalf of a sector that is such a vital UK and European success story and we look forward to working with them.”
Meanwhile, Ryanair urged the European Commission and Germany’s competition watchdog to block the sale of Air Berlin’s assets to Lufthansa. Mr O’Leary accused Lufthansa of operating a “high fare monopoly”.