Ryanair adopts wait and see approach over Belfast routes after Brexit vote
Budget airline flies to London Gatwick and 10 other destinations from Belfast
Ryanair has said it is adopting a wait and see approach on the future of its Belfast operations following the Brexit vote in the EU referendum.
On Monday morning, the budget airline announced it was to "pivot" growth away from its UK airports and instead focus on growing hubs in the European Union following June's referendum result.
The company said the impact of the vote will mean lower economic growth, weaker consumer confidence and put downward pressure on fares until the end of 2017 "at least".
It operates 11 routes out of Belfast International including one to London Gatwick.
Asked if the company's move away from growth in the the UK market will impact Belfast travel, a company spokeswoman said it was too early to determine any impact.
She added: "Until some clarity emerges over the next two years about the UK’s long term political and economic relationships with the EU, we will be unable to predict what effect it will have on our business and regulatory environment, but we have contingency plans in place for all eventualities.
"In the meantime, we will pivot our growth away from UK airports and focus more on growing at our EU airports over the next two years."
In the short term, flights to London Stansted will be cut - although the route will not close. Meaning flights from Derry City Airport could be affected.
The company said there could be further implications if the UK is unable to negotiate access to the single market and the open skies regulatory framework currently in place across the EU.
However, it added that it could benefit if "our UK registered competitors are no longer permitted to operate intra-EU routes, or must divest their majority ownership of EU registered airlines".
The company made the remarks alongside first-quarter results, which saw net income rise 4% to 256 million euros (£214 million) and revenue rise 2% to 1.69 billion euros (£1.4 billion).
Ryanair said it was hit by market volatility arising from terrorist events and repeated air traffic control strikes in the period, particularly in France, which caused almost 1,000 flight cancellations.
Robin Byde, analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, said: " The company is cautious on the impact of Brexit and we expect it to continue to offer deep discounts through the rest of the year to keep cabins full.
"Nonetheless, these results demonstrate the resilience of the Ryanair business model and we expect consensus forecast to be unchanged at this time."