Ryanair pulled out of a long-touted deal to offer connecting flights to Norwegian Air long-haul services amid the crisis over its mass cancellation of flights this week.

The airlines had been discussing a deal for months, with Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary and Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos confirming only last week that a deal was still on.

Ryanair declared “an end to the discussions” after Norwegian announced it had recruited 140 Ryanair pilots as the Irish carrier struggles with the fall-out from cancelling more than 2,000 flights up to the end of October due to a shortage of pilots.

O’Leary said he had terminated talks due to concerns about Norwegian’s finances, repeating a claim he made earlier this month that Norwegian “is not long for this world”.

He had earlier told journalists: “Norwegian will go in four or five months. They are running out of cash. They are scrabbling around daily.”

The Ryanair chief said: “We brought to an end the discussions given our concerns over Norwegian’s financial viability.

“We’re focussing now on discussions with Air Europa and Aer Lingus.”

However, Ryanair rival easyJet announced a flight connections deal with Norwegian at London Gatwick last week.

Norwegian Air confirmed: “Previous discussions with Ryanair are no longer active.”

But Kjos dismissed as “nonsense” O’Leary’s claim that Norwegian is in financial trouble. He said: “There is nothing in these allegations. We are very happy with the financial situation we have.”

He also dismissed suggestions that Norwegian is losing money on its transatlantic flights, saying: We absolutely have no problem in placing capacity on the Atlantic.

“If we didn’t think it was going to be profitable, we would not have these flights.”

Kjos added: “This is Michael O’Leary’s style. He likes to project headlines. I don’t have any dispute with Ryanair.”

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