Air France-KLM boss Jean-Marc Janaillac has insisted British airlines should only continue flying to Europe after Brexit if they are subject to the continent’s rules.

In an interview with The Observer the chief executive who took over at the French Dutch carrier last July played down the impact of Brexit on his company.

But he said the fallout will be more significant for British carriers who will have to continue recognising the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Britain’s future outside of Europe and outside of the reach of the ECJ is seen as a ‘red line’ for Theresa May and her Brextit negotiating team.

Janaillac said: “We would approve the British airlines flying within Europe as European operators on one condition: if they have the same rights, they should have the same obligations as European carriers.”

He used low-cost carrier Norwegian’s relationship with Europe as an example. “A bit like Norwegian. I think it is very clear: 100% of the rights means 100% of the obligations. If not, we will not have a level playing field.”

Asked about the impact of Brexit, Janaillac said it was “neither an opportunity nor a disaster” for Air France-KLM.

He said: “For Air France-KLM, and other airlines, the British market is important but it is not a huge part of our activity. I think it is more a problem for British airlines than continental operators.”

And amid concerns about the impact on carrier in the event of a no deal Brexit, he added:

“Some say if there is not an agreement all the flights are going to stop and British people with homes in Spain will not be able to fly home for the weekend.

“Others say that former agreements are going to work. I think the government should prepare.

“I mean, plan in order to assure that things are going to be smooth in March 2019, if there is no agreement. I hope it is possible to have an intermediary period.”