THE Director-General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Mr Alexandre de Juniac, has cautioned the European Union (EU) that its proposed regulation to ensure aeroplanes keep flying after a no-deal Brexit represents a huge step backwards for all European consumers.
The criticism by the director-general was in a letter to the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Mr Michel Barnier, responding to Brussels’ plan to cap flight numbers between the United Kingdom (UK) and EU at 2018 levels.
Airports Council International has suggested that the cap could lead to the loss of 140,000 new flights and nearly 20m passengers between the UK and EU this year.
The proposed regulation, announced last month, was designed to avoid severe disruption in the case of a no-deal Brexit. But it said the total number of flights UK carriers could operate to Europe during the summer and winter seasons in 2019 “shall not exceed” the levels in the equivalent seasons in 2018.
Mr Juniac wrote in the letter, seen by the Financial Times: “Both EU and UK airlines have been allocated airport slots and have sold tickets for this summer. This decision, if approved, will create significant disruption with travellers being unable to fly and airlines unable to honour booked tickets and potentially losing their slots.”
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At a meeting of airport heads with the Department for Transport before Christmas, the feeling was that the cap had come “from left field” after “positive reassurances” from the EU throughout 2018, said one person briefed on the discussion. They said it felt “irrational” and “provocative”.
Henk van Klaveren of the Airport Operators Association, a UK trade body, said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, “95-97 per cent of flights will be flying but if you’re an airport planning on growth with new routes or the expansion of existing routes, you’re suddenly worrying about your 2019 business and investment plans.
That is quite crucial crunch time.”
There was initial confusion within the industry around whether the cap applied to flights at a national level or on a route or carrier basis, but the European Commission has indicated that it meant a total cap by country.
However, easyJet said it was more important that the agreement allowed flights to continue, and that it would not be affected by the cap: “The increase in the number of flights between the UK and EU in 2018 and in 2019 is expected to be relatively small, so limiting flights to the 2018 level is not an issue for us.” — FT