IATA Warns of Air Travel “Chaos” In Case of No-Deal Brexit

Oct 28, 2018

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There are renewed concerns regarding Brexit and its potential impact on travel throughout Europe. These new concerns, which come directly from Alexandre de Juniac, the Director General of the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), focus heavily on the implications that Brexit could have on holiday or vacation flights between the United Kingdom and other European countries. De Juniac went so far as to predict “chaos” for air travel should a no-deal Brexit occur.

Alexandre de Juniac, former CEO of Air France and current head of IATA, spoke to The Telegraph recently about Brexit and the implications the UK’s exit from the EU could have on air travel across Europe. In that interview, de Juniac said that the IATA, “Predict[s] chaos if nothing is done.” The “nothing is done” refers to a “hard” or no-deal Brexit. “It will be a nightmare for airports and passengers and airlines,” adds de Juniac.

The official date for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) is set for next March 29, 2019. Effective 11pm local time, the United Kingdom will no longer be a part of the European Union. March 29th is also the set date at which time the UK is to have a withdrawal agreement prepared. In the event that a withdrawal agreement has not been created there are two outcomes that could take place. The first is an extension granting the UK additional time to create a withdrawal agreement. The second outcome is a hard or no-deal Brexit, in which the United Kingdom would essentially be removed from the European Union and left to negotiate with the EU on each issue over time. The second outcome is widely understood to be disastrous, and the implications a no-deal Brexit would have on air travel are truly catastrophic.

Schiphol, The Netherlands - November 14, 2012: British Airways Airbus A319 taking off from Schiphol airport in a sunset at the end of the day.
Schiphol, The Netherlands – November 14, 2012: British Airways Airbus A319 taking off from Schiphol airport in a sunset at the end of the day.

De Juniac noted that IATA and most governing bodies know little more now than they did in June 2016 when the UK voted to leave the EU. De Juniac cited a multitude of uncertainties that would come in to play on March 29th following Brexit, including the grounding of many flights across Europe.

De Juniac also commented on the operational aspects of air travel. “It will be difficult to know if pilot licenses are mutually recognized,” de Juniac told The Telegraph. Furthermore, should a no-deal Brexit take place, IATA said that it would fall back on a “bare bones” agreement allowing for a “basic level of connectivity” between the United Kingdom and the European Union. This would lead to a “poor passenger experience” de Juniac remarked. The poor passenger experience would be due to the inevitable differences in how the UK and EU would operate post-Brexit.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Border Force check the passports of passengers arriving at Gatwick Airport on May 28, 2014 in London, England. Border Force is the law enforcement command within the Home Office responsible for the security of the UK border by enforcing immigration and customs controls on people and goods entering the UK. Border Force officers work at 140 sea and airports across the UK and overseas. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Border Force check the passports of passengers arriving at Gatwick Airport.

Another aspect that is critical to aviation safety and regulation is the UK’s membership in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The United Kingdom is currently a member of the EASA as is every country in the European Union. The EASA plays a major role in the regulation, safety and certification process in European aviation. While EASA has stated that there would be a mutual agreement between the UK and the EASA regardless of what approach to Brexit is taken, there is still some anxiety over what would happen should the EASA decided to alter that mutual agreement.

De Juniac also went on to talk Brexit and holiday travel. One aspect of the European Union that is unarguably positive for virtually all parties involved is the freedom to travel from one EU nation to another with almost no restrictions. This has allowed those residing in the United Kingdom to take very affordable holidays to places like Spain, Italy and Greece. De Juniac is particularly concerned about holiday goers in Spain when Brexit goes into effect. IATA expects that even in the best case scenario, the dozens of daily flights between resort cities in Spain and cities in the UK would likely be disrupted. It could even take weeks before travel between countries like Spain and the UK would begin to normalize.

Playa de ses Illetes, Formentera, . (Photo by Juergen Sack / Getty Images)
Playa de ses Illetes, Formentera, (Photo by Juergen Sack / Getty Images)

Reporter Nick Trend for The Telegraph noted that he was personally going out of his way to avoid air travel to and from the United Kingdom in the days and weeks following Brexit. Trend said that “passengers should be cautious about booking flights departing or returning after March until we have more certain information.” Airlines have yet to issue travel waivers as a result of Brexit.

For now, very little is known about how Brexit will unfold. There are a plethora of possible ways in which the United Kingdom could leave the European Union. From a no-deal “hard” Brexit to a rather modest exit, even regulatory agencies are having difficulty preparing for March 29, 2019. In the event of a hard-Brexit, it is very likely that air travel will be chaotic in the weeks following. However, should the UK reach a thorough agreement with the EU, it is possible that the disruption to air travel will be minimal.

H/T: The Telegraph

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