Thousands of new flights at risk in no-deal Brexit

UK airline routes within EU to be ‘frozen’ for twelve months following Brexit

The UK airline market will effectively be ‘frozen’ in no-deal Brexit. Photograph: File photo/Getty

There will be no "silver lining" for aviation with thousands of flights at risk in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the director of Airports Council International (ACI) has warned.

Details of the loss – which would have a knock-on effect for millions of EU passengers – was published in the European Commission’s contingency plan in preparation for a no-deal Brexit scenario in 2019 on Wednesday.

The plan’s measures cover a number of areas including financial services, air transport, customs and climate policy.

The Commission’s proposed schedule coincided with the release of the Irish Government’s latest plans on how to cope with a no-deal Brexit. Both documents reference the aviation industry and the measures that need to be taken to ensure the industry is prepared for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.


The EU document confirmed that all air services currently operating between the UK and the EU27 would continue after March 29th, 2019 for a period of 12 months. This will provide "additional reassurances for the travelling public and for countless communities across Europe that have come to rely on air connectivity for economic growth, jobs, trade links and tourism," said the ACI in a statement on Thursday.


However, for the first time the commission underlined that UK airlines would not be allowed to add new routes nor increase the frequency currently in operation during the 12 months after March 2019. As a result, the UK airline market will effectively be “frozen”, said the ACI.

While UK airlines will not be able to add to the number of planes operating in their fleets, the regulation does not stop them from using larger aircrafts to increase numbers of passengers.

ACI director Olivier Jankovec warned that if the “restriction of air connectivity development” was applied, it would result in the loss of 140,000 new flights and nearly 20 million passengers on the UK-EU27 market.

“With all these passengers departing or arriving in the UK but spread out across 27 other EU countries, UK airports and their communities would be disproportionately affected,” said Mr Jankovec.

“The Brexit deal on the table would guarantee a business-as-usual scenario thanks to transition arrangements it foresees. All this shows that there is no such thing as a silver lining for aviation with the no-deal scenario - and that it must be avoided at all cost.”

The Irish contingency plan warned that flights between the UK and the EU were at risk of an “abrupt interruption” in a no deal Brexit scenario due to the absence of traffic rights and issues relating to the validity of operating licences or safety certificates.

Aviation safety

The commission confirmed that it would propose measures to ensure that air carriers from the UK can land in the EU and fly back to the UK (ie, operate point to point flights) as well as measures to UK air carriers to fly over the territory of the EU and make technical stops (eg, refuelling without embarkation/disembarkation of passengers). Those measures would be subject to the condition that the UK applies equivalent measures to air carriers from the EU.

Regarding aviation safety, the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) will only be able to issue certificates once the UK has become a third country, said the Irish plan. The commission will also take action to ensure that the 'one stop security' system is applied so that passengers and their cabin baggage flying from the UK and transiting via EU27 airports continue to be exempted from a second security screening.

A spokesman for DAA, which operates Cork and Dublin airports, said the safety and security of passengers, staff and other airport users was the company’s “key priority” but for “operational reasons” would not comment publicly on security matters in the case of a no-deal scenario.

A spokesman for the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said the company was working closely with Government, industry partners and others as the State prepares for various Brexit scenarios.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast