Ryanair will re-focus its growth away from the UK as a result of the Brexit vote and said a hard Brexit could cause “significant disruption” to UK/EU flights for months after Britain leaves the EU.

In a statement accompanying its year-end results the company said it “actively campaigned” for a remain vote in the UK Referendum.

“We were disappointed by the result, and are concerned at the significant uncertainty over the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU in March 2019,” it said.

“For our customers, we hope the UK will remain in Open Skies which will mean no change for UK consumers and visitors.

“However, the UK has indicated that it does not wish to do so, and until we get clarity over the final terms of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, there must be significant uncertainty over flights between the UK and the EU for a period of time from March 2019 onwards.

“A hard Brexit could cause significant disruption to UK/EU flights for a period of months after March 2019, which is why we must remain flexible.

“In the absence of such certainty, or direction, we will continue to pivot our growth away from the UK in 2017 and 2018 to capitalise on the many growth opportunities elsewhere in Europe.

“We have contingency plans and will adapt to changed circumstances in the best interests of our customers.”

The company has seen profits boosted by costs savings and more passengers despite difficulties including a series of security alerts across Europe.
It reported a 6% increase in full year net profit to €1.3 billion as a result of a 13% cut in average fares, a 13% rise in traffic growth to 120m customers, and a 94% load factor. Unit costs fell by 11% (ex-fuel down 5%).
It created more than 1,000 jobs for pilots, cabin crew, engineers, and IT developers last year, and says it will create at least a similar number next year.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said the growth came “despite difficult trading conditions… caused by a series of security events at European cities, a switch of charter capacity from North Africa, Turkey and Egypt to mainland Europe, and a sharp decline in sterling following the June 2016 Brexit vote”.

During the year the company took delivery of 52 B737’s, launched 206 routes, and opened 10 bases at primary airports in Bucharest, Corfu, Frankfurt Main, Hamburg, Ibiza, Nuremburg, Prague, Sofia, Timisoara and Vilnius.

The fleet will grow to 427 aircraft by March 2018 as traffic rises to 130m customers.

The two aircraft at Frankfurt Main (opened in March) will increase to seven from September. In April the company opened a base in Naples and next autumn opens bases in Memmingen (Munich) and Poznan, as well as launching its first flights to Tel Aviv and the Ukraine (its 34th country).

It recently announced the launch of Ryanair Sun, a charter airline which will have a Polish management team. This airline will operate next summer with a fleet of five aircraft and will significantly boost its presence in Poland where Ryanair is already the largest scheduled airline.

The company expects Ryanair Sun to become Poland’s biggest charter airline, as it grows to 15 aircraft by  summer 2019.