Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has continued the row over help offered to Flybe, by saying Chancellor Sajid Javid had made “inaccurate and misleading” statements.
The government has approved help for the struggling regional airline, including giving it extra time to pay outstanding Air Passenger Duty (APD).
Writing to the chancellor, Mr O’Leary said letting Flybe delay payment was “in breach of state aid rules”.
Meanwhile, Ryanair has warned pilots of possible base closures and job cuts.
The warning comes because the delivery date of 10 of Boeing’s grounded 737 Max aircraft has been delayed until at least September.
In his letter to Mr Javid, Mr O’Leary said: “Flybe is not like ‘many other businesses in the UK’. Uniquely it was bought by a group of billionaires for just £2m last year, in the full knowledge that Flybe was a loss-making business.
“Your suggestion that Sir Richard Branson (billionaire), Delta Airlines (a multi-billion dollar airline), Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital (a $4bn venture capital fund) need ‘time to pay’ is absurd.
“If these billionaire shareholders are not willing to put their hand in their own deep pockets to bail out the loss-making Flybe, then why is your government and HMRC giving them a bailout?”
Flybe ran into difficulties early in January and Mr O’Leary added: “Flybe is not as you claim ‘a viable business with genuine short-term difficulties’. It is a business that has lurched from failure to failure over the last 20 years.”
He went on to say that if the government seriously wanted to “level up all regions in the UK” then it should reduce APD for all airlines and passengers who use regional airports, not only for one.
Earlier in the month, Mr O’Leary threatened legal action over the government’s help for Flybe in an initial letter to Mr Javid.
In it, he said that unless Mr Javid confirmed what support was being given to Flybe within seven days, Ryanair would launch proceedings against the government.