Whether it’s a deal or no deal, the skies still appear blue for aviation as Brexit date moves closer

Think of any word beginning with the letter ‘B’? There are thousands of options, but for most people across Europe, and the UK particularly, there will be only one word that would come immediately to mind… Brexit. The Blue Swan Daily has continuously featured developments on the subject and the likely repercussions for travel and aviation. But, as we now enter Feb-2019 and that 29-Mar-2019 departure date edges closer, we thought it would be a good time to provide an update of where things stand.

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union pundits are busy mulling over the potential possibilities. Baines Simmons director Bob Simmons has pointed to three possible eventualities:

  • The UK Government requests a Brexit extension to allow for alternative proposals to be negotiated and the current unresolved situation continues. A transitional period is likely to be included in this option, extending the date by which organisations would need to resolve any EASA approvals and revised EU trading and travel arrangements.
  • A no deal ‘hard Brexit’ occurs, with the UK reverting to full trading independence under WTO rules and becoming a ‘Third Country’ to the EU. With a few exceptions, all approvals, personal licences and certifications issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority or by UK approved organisations would automatically become invalid overnight. Route licenses and access for operators to the EU internal air transport market would also become invalid, requiring new bilateral air transport and open skies agreements to be negotiated.
  • The political situation in the UK changes to such an extent that Brexit will be put on hold to allow time for the development of new negotiation strategies or a second referendum to happen.

With the Commons blocking Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated Brexit deal last week, the possibility of a no deal, hard Brexit is very real. Brexiteers, commentators and a significant majority of Mrs May’s own Tory backbench have decried her deal, saying that as a ‘remainer’ herself the deal is always going to favour continued close links to the EU. Former foreign secretary and would be prime minister Boris Johnson, as well as powerful Brexiteer backbenchers like Jacob Rees Mogg have long argued that no deal is better than a bad deal.

So what does this all mean for the future of aviation and the continuation of flights between the UK and EU post 29-Mar-2019? As The Blue Swan Daily has previously reported IAG CEO Willie Walsh has repeatedly expressed his confidence in uninterrupted travel post Brexit, whilst his fellow Irish countryman Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has often presented a doomsday approach.

For their part, Ryanair has sought and gained a UK air operator’s certificate (AOC) as a Brexit safety measure, whilst IAG already operates with Irish, Spanish and UK AOCs across its slew of airline brands. easyJet has also sought assurances by registering an AOC in Austria.

With robust contingency plans in place, and a line echoed by all across the political spectrum that UK-EU air connectivity must continue uninterrupted post Brexit, it’s probably safe to say little to nothing will change after 29-Mar-2019. What will change is the UK’s financial contribution to EASA and the European aerospace and technology sectors, including significant investments in the Galileo satellite system, defence projects and aviation innovation.

But what does this all mean for your average British sun seeker looking for their next budget holiday on the Costa del Sol or Greek islands? Probably not much. Tour operators and hotels suggest summer holiday bookings remain robust, albeit some airlines are beginning to note a small shift in demand patterns.

Wizz Air CEO József Váradi has been quoted as saying: “consumers are uncertain and they (will) probably postpone their bookings. We’ve started seeing that in our bookings”. However, he expects consumer confidence will be quickly restored once there is certainty about Brexit. “These issues stand to be fairly temporary,” he has said.

Whilst the political stakes a high, simply put commercial air carriers will not allow their lucrative and vital trade to be diminished or interrupted. Deal or no deal, the skies still appear blue for aviation. For now at least!