Ryanair does not support a ban on Belarusian airspace in the long term, its group chief executive said today and called on international authorities to secure assurances from the country that there would be no repeat of last month's forced landing.
Belarus scrambled a warplane to force a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk on May 23.
The plane was carrying an opposition journalist who was then arrested, prompting punitive measures against Belarus in response.
Belarusian carriers are now banned from flying over European Union and UK territory, while EU and British authorities issued a safety directive saying their aircraft should avoid Belarusian air space unless in an emergency.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary told a British parliamentary committee that while he supported those measures, the aviation industry depended in the long term on unrestricted access to all airspace.
He said this unrestricted access must be restored.
"We need to have an outcome where the European and the UK authorities, hopefully assisted by international partners, receive appropriate assurances from the Belarusian, and or Russian authorities, that this will never happen again," he said.
Short-term sanctions were necessary to deter other states from copycat behaviour, he added, but in the long term the politicisation of airspace was not the answer as it would hurt the aviation industry and international connectivity.
"The freedom to overfly states is something that we have perhaps taken for granted for the last 70-80 years," Mr O'Leary told politicians. "We must restore it as quickly as possible."
The United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is investigating the forced-landing incident and is due to report back in two weeks.
Michael O'Leary also said that Britain could best help the aviation industry to recover from Covid-19 by incentivising people to fly by cutting travel taxes.
"It is critical not that the government gives us more subsidies, but that they scrap air passenger duty for a two or three year period to allow consumers to return and the industry to recover," he told the committee.