Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Flights to EU at risk if no Brexit deal, airlines warn

  • O'Leary: "There is a real prospect of no flights between the UK and Europe for weeks, or months" (Photo: Nelson L.)

Aviation executives warned MEPs on Tuesday (11 July) that Brexit could mean serious disruption to flights between the UK and the EU 27 if there was no agreement on the UK remaining part of Europe’s open skies policy.

The chief executive of Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, Michael O'Leary, spelled out a dark future to the transport committee of the European Parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said flights between the UK and Europe could come to a halt for several months in case of a hard Brexit.

“There is a real prospect of no flights between the UK and Europe for weeks, or months,” O’Leary said.

The European Union liberalised its aviation market 25 years ago, allowing EU carriers to fly to any airport within the bloc. This opened up the business to low cost carriers, as it created more choices for consumers.

Travellers took advantage: In 1992, 360 million passengers flew within the EU. That figure now stands at over 900 million a year.

If Brexit takes place by March 2019 as planned, that would mean that Britain would probably leave the European Common Aviation Area, as the British government does not want to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which governs the policy, however.

Aviation representatives warned MEPs that there would be no World Trade organisation (WTO) rules to fall back on in the area of aviation, as there are in other sectors.

Booking starts

The clock is ticking quickly.

Without a newly negotiated deal between the UK and the EU to replace the open skies policy, nobody knows what woud happen in March 2019.

The aviation and tourism industries are worried as passengers usually start booking their holidays and trips a year before travelling.

That means the sector would need certainty, possibly in a form of an agreement between the EU and the UK, already early next year.

Ryanair’s chief said Britons would wake up to the hard truth when, in September 2018, they tried to book their holidays for next year.

“UK voters will realise that they can drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland for their holidays,” he argued, saying no airlines would be able to fly if there was no deal.

"It is delusional to think a deal will be done, they [the UK government] have no idea what they want, other than leaving the ECJ,” O’Leary said.

"If there is no deal, there are no flights, there is no mechanism,” O'Leary said.

Quick deal

Other aviation executives also called for a quick deal between the EU and the UK on open skies.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, one of the world’s largest airline groups, said the EU and UK should sign a comprehensive air transport agreement to maintain consumer benefits.

He said that would allow airlines all the existing freedoms in the air and clarify that airlines could be owned by either UK or EU firms.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, said that Brexit negotiators should prioritise aviation in the second phase of the talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

He added negotiators should come to a transitional agreement in 2018 to “maintain today’s arrangements as long as possible”.

“Maintaining the status quo on the European aviation market is in the interest of Britain and the rest of the EU,” he told MEPs.

Franck Goldnadel, an executive with the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, said airports and airline operators needed “as much time as possible” to adapt to any new rules, but at least a year or two.

But O'Leary argued that there would be no good will for a bilateral agreement allowing the UK back into open skies as German and French competitors would want to take advantage of the situation.

He said bluntly: “when Germans and the French have a chance to stick it to the UK”, they use it.

Halt unlikely

Other aviation executives did not think a complete halt was likely, as both the EU and the UK were interested in avoiding big disruptions that could mean job losses.

Ralf Pastleitner, an official with the TUI Group, a tourism company said an estimated €21 billion would be lost in tourism in the case of a hard Brexit.

He said the five top destinations from the UK - France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece - could suffer the most.

In 2016, there were 2.5 million travellers from Britain to Greece alone, he noted.

Pastleitner said it was not just a British, but a European problem, if there was no accord.

Barnier sets price for hard Brexit

The EU Brexit negotiator warned that a customs union between the UK and EU will not be possible if the UK doesn't want to respect single market rules, and "no deal" would send the UK back to "a distant past".

UK agrees to EU conditions on Brexit talks

In their first meeting, the EU's Michel Barnier and Brexit minister David Davis agreed that talks on future relations will start only when "sufficient progress" has been made on divorce proceedings.

EU mulls post-Brexit budget options

EU seeks novel ways to plug a Brexit-based budget hole of up to €11 billion, but income from fines, such as the one on Google, cannot be relied on.

Barnier urges UK to come up with Brexit positions

The EU's negotiator calls on the UK government to come up with its positions on key Brexit issues ahead of the next round of talks on Monday. London is expected to do that by the end of the week.

UK to depart EU court and Euratom

UK position papers call for departure from EU court and nuclear treaty as officials prepare for second round of Brexit talks.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Feature

'Swexit' off menu at election for first time in 24 years

The Swedish Left Party have abandoned euroscepticism to campaign on climate change - whilst the hard-right Sweden Democrats spy possibilities of a link up with Matteo Salvini of Italy and France's Marine Le Pen.

Opinion

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us