Walsh predicts UK and EU will agree air services deal post-Brexit
IAG chief executive says EU unlikely to cap flights from UK if it exits without agreement
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh: there is no scenario following a no-deal Brexit where flights will be grounded by circumstances beyond everybody’s control. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The EU and UK will agree a “comprehensive” pact allowing air travel after Brexit, according to Willie Walsh, chief executive of Aer Lingus owner, International Consolidated Airlines’ Group (IAG).
Brexit will leave the UK outside the EU’s aviation treaties and regulations, prompting fears that flights could be grounded when Britain leaves the trading bloc on March 29th.
Mr Walsh stressed he could not predict the outcome of the political debate. “But from an aviation point of view, there will be a comprehensive agreement,” he said.
“When you look at it, the UK is such an important part of the market in Europe. The EU prides itself on being able to negotiate comprehensive air service agreements with countries around the world, they will do the same with the UK and the UK itself obviously wants to do it with the EU.”
He argued that the EU was unlikely to proceed with a proposal to cap flights from the UK if that jurisdiction crashes out without a deal, saying anyone suggesting this did not understand aviation’s legal framework.
“Consumers do not want to see a cap on flights because a cap on flights is just going to reduce capacity, reduced capacity means higher prices,” he said. “It’s not in any consumer’s interest to have flights capped around Europe.”
Mr Walsh stressed there was no scenario following a no-deal Brexit where flights could be grounded by circumstances beyond everybody’s control.
“It’s ultimately a decision for EU governments, I’m not aware of any government that wants to see flights halted, in fact, I’m not aware of any government that wants to see flights capped.”
Separately Mr Walsh argued that Dublin Airport did not need a third terminal, something suggested last year in a Government-commissioned report.
He indicated that instead IAG supported the DAA’s plans to spend €900 million adding new passenger gates and aircraft stands to the existing facilities there.
“We are not going to get sidetracked by a debate around should there be a third terminal at Dublin,” he told an Aviation Club UK dinner hosted in Dublin.
He dismissed reports that he had recently met aviation entrepreneur Ulick McEvaddy to discuss plans for a third terminal that would host Aer Lingus and US carrier Delta. “I met him about 15 years ago,” Mr Walsh said.
Aer Lingus and its sister IAG carriers, British Airways, Iberia and Veuling, all fly from Dublin Airport.
IAG owns a 4.6 per cent stake in Norwegian Air, which is seeking €200 million savings this year to combat rising costs and intensified competition.
Mr Walsh said that he did not believe Norwegian would fold. He said the airline had proven there was demand for low-cost, long-distance flying, but had simply chosen the wrong aircraft in the Boeing 787.
However, he said that IAG would not get into a bidding war to buy Norwegian. “IAG is going to expand into that segment of the market,” he said, adding it was already doing this through Level, the low-cost transatlantic airline the group launched in 2017.