The recriminations surrounding the government’s rescue package for Flybe grew yet again this morning, as Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary accused the state of a cover-up of the true terms of the deal.
O’Leary has already written to chancellor Sajid Javid threatening legal action over what he calls illegal state aid to one of his competitors. But today he went a step further, and accused the government of lying.
“We don’t believe them and the reason we don’t believe them is they won’t publish the deal,” O’Leary said.
“Flybe is not a viable business; it never has been. It has lurched from reconstruction to reconstruction and this is the government misusing state funds to discriminate in favour of Flybe.
“It’s in breach of competition rules, it’s in breach of state aid rules, which is why the government are covering up the deal,” he told the BBC.
Flybe operates the majority of domestic UK flights which do not not involve a London airport, including several public service routes which the government pays for. It carries 8m passengers a year, and employs 2,400 people.
But O’Leary said it is not important enough to the British economy to save, and that bigger competitors such as his Ryanair, Easyjet or British Airways would be able to pick up the slack if it collapsed.
“The point is the government can’t keep lending a non-viable airline £100m every three months to keep non-essential services available,” O’Leary told the BBC. “The reason Flybe loses money at airports like Exeter and Newquay is because most people use the train or use the motorway. They don’t use Flybe.”
O’Leary’s comments add to the pressure on the government to reveal the details of its deal with Flybe. British Airways-owner International Airlines Group (IAG) yesterday submitted a freedom of information request on the matter, and accused the state of a “lack of transparency”.