Chancellor Philip Hammond, recently said it was “theoretically conceivable” that flights from the UK could be grounded if no deal was struck with the EU to replace the present open skies agreement that covers all European airspace. However, Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, said that such a move was “inconceivable”. Grayling, who supported the Leave campaign, said it was of “no benefit to anybody for there to be no deal on aviation”.
As operators prepare to sell holidays that start after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, some airlines and operators are tightening their T&Cs, inserting clauses stating that they will not be liable to pay compensation or reimburse expenses for delays caused by “airspace closures”, although they will refund tickets.
It is clear why this action is being taken; the rights of UK airlines to fly to European destinations are legally based on existing EU regulations, which will cease to apply after Brexit – and a major sticking point in negotiations will undoubtedly arise if the EU insists the UK must abide by aviation rulings made by the European Court of Justice.
Any future EU-UK deal is likely to be more restrictive than the current arrangements. Without an agreement, Hammond is right to warn that after March 2019 flights are in danger of not taking off.
Steven Freudmann is chairman of the Institute of Travel & Tourism