Aviation regulator satisfied Irish airlines continue flying into UK after Brexit

Watchdog says rules ‘have not changed in 25 years, nor will they change after Brexit’

The Commission for Aviation Regulation has said it is satisfied Aer Lingus, Ryanair and other Irish airlines will comply with EU rules on ownership and control to continue flying into the UK after Brexit.

Concerns have been raised by EU officials questioning the preferred strategy of Aer Lingus-owned IAG to meet the rules in order to continue flying across the bloc and in and out of the UK in the event it crashes out without a deal.

The Spanish-registered IAG, owner of British Airways and Spain's Iberia, plans to retain both EU and UK operating rights after Britain's departure by arguing that flag-carrier airlines are owned domestically and not owned by the international group to meet rules that it is more than 50 per cent owned by EU investors.

“The Commission for Aviation Regulation is satisfied that Irish-licensed air carriers comply with relevant requirements in relation to possession of an air carrier license under EU law,” said its spokesman.


“Most Irish-licensed air carriers are unaffected by the potential recategorisation of UK nationals as third-country nations in the context of a no-deal Brexit.”

Minister for Transport Shane Ross told a no-deal Brexit contingency planning briefing last week that the ownership and control rules still raised some uncertainty around connectivity between Ireland and the UK after Brexit but he expected "anticipated disruption" from ownership issues "will not materialise at all".

‘Ready to go’

He told reporters he was “quite confident” that Ryanair has “the template” in place to comply with the rules and that it was “ready to go”, while Aer Lingus had expressed confidence that it would have no issue either.

One way of circumventing the EU-majority ownerships rule was to remove voting rights from UK-based shareholders after Brexit.

A spokesman for Mr Ross’s department said that the rules in force in Ireland covering the ownership and control of airlines were “not changing as a result of Brexit”. The aviation watchdog echoed this, saying the rules “have not changed in 25 years, nor will they change as a result of Brexit”.

“Irish air carriers and their shareholders have lengthy experience in complying with these rules and providing for the implementation of processes to ensure continued compliance with these rules as shareholdings change over the course of time,” said the aviation regulator’s spokesman.

‘Ongoing compliance’

The regulator would continue to engage with airlines to ensure their “ongoing compliance with the licensing obligations”, he said.

The UK parliament’s rejection of Theresa May’s withdrawal agremeent have put the manner and timing of Britain’s departure from the EU in doubt, further increasing the possibility of a no-deal exit.

The EU Commission urged airlines to have their plans to continue flying in the event of a disorderly Brexit verified by their domestic licensing authorities to ensure compliance with EU ownership and control rules.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent