International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, did not mince words and said it would be a “disaster” should the UK not establish traffic rights for airlines before departing the European Union (EU).
While the IATA and the rest of the industry harbors hope that negotiators from both sides can settle on a pact in the nick of time to sidestep airline service disruptions, recent developments saying that talks have stalled has caused a lot of concern.
IATA has appealed to those involved in the Brexit negotiations to establish traffic rights at the soonest, and October 2018 by the latest.
The UK is set to depart the EU in March 2019 but carriers organize their schedules and put tickets on sale at least six months before operations.
As a member of the EU, the UK enjoys the benefits that come from liberalized traffic rights within Europe and also from the EU-US Open Skies agreement.
But if the UK leaves the EU without new traffic rights, it would have to go back to the pre-liberalized air bilateral system, that includes flights to Ireland, which is an EU member state.
“The worst case would be that connectivity is not maintained between the UK and EU due to the disappearance of traffic rights. Traffic rights are a key issue,” de Juniac said from Geneva.
“It would be a disaster for UK-based carriers because they would not be allowed to land in Europe. I don’t think it will happen, but it is a risk,” the IATA head added.
De Juniac stressed that “urgent action” was necessary to secure the provision of connectivity after Brexit.
“As a general rule, the business of freedom is at its best in creating value for the world in a liberalized framework. That’s a message that I intend to push quite strongly in the year ahead,” de Juniac conveyed.
The EU’s Open Skies framework is largely attributed with invigorating the growth of Europe’s air traffic, the LCC sector in particular.
IATA Regional Vice President for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman, shared that finding a resolution to UK’s post-Brexit aviation issue would be “difficult, but feasible”.
“We hope a solution is found for the UK air service arrangements post March 2019, enabling air traffic between the UK and EU to continue,” said Schvartzman. Schvartzman cautioned that European passengers stand to be “the biggest losers” should appropriate arrangements be not secured in time.