A Ryanair boss has warned the airline might have to suspend flights from the UK after Brexit unless the government agrees an early deal on aviation.
Ryanair, which operates dozens of services from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, has long warned about what Brexit could mean for its business.
Now its chief financial office Neil Sorahan has told the Guardian newspaper that it might have to suspend flights for 鈥渨eeks or months鈥?unless the Government puts contingency plans in place so it can keep flying between the UK and Europe.
And while the airport and analysts believe agreements will be reached to keep planes flying, Ryanair鈥檚 warning could alarm Liverpool passengers.
Airlines in the EU and other countries can fly in and out of each other鈥檚 territories under a series of agreements, including the EU-US 鈥淥pen Skies鈥?deal. The EU has a Single Aviation Market which some non-member countries, including Norway, can access.
When the UK leaves the EU it鈥檚 possible that it will no longer be part of those agreements and will have to negotiate its own separate deals.
Ryanair says that if no deal on airspace access had been agreed by 2019, then it would in theory not be able to fly between the UK and Europe. The airline has to prepare its schedule many months in advance and wants the Government to end any uncertainty over its plans.
Mr Sorahan told the Guardian: 鈥淓urope has been very clear in recent days that no deals are going to be put in place, they are not planning to put any special deals in place.
鈥淚f there was a cliff-edge scenario with World Trade Organisation rules and no bilateral (agreement) on open skies in place, there is a distinct possibility that there will be no flights for a period of time between Europe and the UK.
鈥淭he impact on business would be disastrous.?/p>
He added: 鈥淥ur message to Theresa May is 鈥楶lease make your mind up quickly and get a decision on an aviation deal and continue to keep Britain flying,?/p>
Liverpool is one of Ryanair鈥檚 most important bases. Just last week, Ryanair announced it was adding more flights from Liverpool, including a new Copenhagen service next winter.
Speaking to the ECHO in January, Ryanair鈥檚 outspoken chief executive Michael O鈥橪eary said he was worried what would happen to Open Skies deals.
He said: 鈥淭here鈥檚 a real danger the will Europeans say no, you can鈥檛 stay in Open Skies unless you鈥檙e going to allow the free movement of people.
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鈥淲e can鈥檛 wait until 2019. We鈥檙e finalising our summer 19 schedules in summer 18. So we need to know 12 months in advance what exactly is going to happen when Brexit takes place.
鈥淎nd I think there鈥檚 a real risk that the UK could fall off a cliff in March 2019 because there鈥檚 no prospect of these trade agreements being resolved within a two-year period.?/p>
An LJLA spokesperson said: 鈥淭his issue is important for both the UK and EU countries to ensure the same freedoms exist going forward.
鈥淲hilst we are confident that this issue will be resolved as part of the Brexit negotiations, we are working with our industry trade body the Airport Operators Association to lobby Government on this issue as a priority and have also raised this with the Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union when he visited the Airport at the end of last year.?/p>
Airline analyst Chris Tarry said the UK was a key market for airlines and said he was hopeful deals could be reached.
He said: 鈥淚 think it (Ryanair) is probably setting out the worst case bargaining situation. How likely is it to happen? Probably unlikely.?/p>
Last year the International Air Transport Association said that while Brexit would affect airlines, it believed agreements would be reached 鈥渢o maintain existing arrangements pending negotiation of a new bilateral agreement鈥?