The European Commission (EC) has triggered a period of high anxiety in the tour and travel industry in the United Kingdom because of the way post-Brexit rules might stymie the operations of UK-based airlines, specifically those that fly direct or connect to Eurozone markets from the UK. The EC rule, it is feared, will cause UK airlines will lose their automatic right to fly to the European Union post-Brexit.
(The European Commission (EC) is the de facto executive cabinet of the EU, responsible for proposing legislation and managing the day-to-day business of the EU. The EC operates as a cabinet government.)
Triggered by a June 23, 2016 referendum vote in which Britons voted to exit (“Brexit”) the 28-member EU, Brexit will become effective March 29, 2019. The EC has issued a notice which says that, for a carrier to obtain and keep an EU operating license and benefit from intra-EU air traffic lights, a carrier must have its principal place of business within the EU and be majority owned and effectively controlled by EU member states and/or EU nationals.”
It added, “In order to continue benefiting from the freedoms of establishment and to provide air services within the EU internal market as of the withdrawal date, air carriers are advised to consider any measure required to ensure that the conditions for holding an EU operating license are complied with in all circumstances.”
The notice made it clear that UK airlines will no longer have the right to fly between the UK and Europe post-Brexit: “Air carriers of the United Kingdom will no longer enjoy traffic rights under any air transport agreement to which the Union is a party, be it to or from the territory of the United Kingdom, be it to or from the territory of any of the EU Member States … As of the withdrawal date, the operating licences granted to airlines by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will no longer be valid EU operating licenses.”
Because the effective transfer to a post-Brexit world is now just about 15 months away (think ITB 2019), the EC notice has the tour and travel industry in a near apoplectic state, perhaps best expressed by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), which said the announcement by the EC Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport was “cause for great concern.”
“Here it is in black and white from the EU Commission – UK flights to the EU will be grounded in March 2019 should no agreement be reached” said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton. “We need the UK government to sort air traffic rights now. Once again, no deal is not an option.”