UK airlines back May to seal EU aviation deal

UK airlines back May to seal EU aviation deal

UK airlines “have faith” in the government securing access to the EU aviation market post-Brexit, a senior aviation industry representative has told MPs.

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on Tuesday: “We want the government to negotiate early access to the EU [open skies] agreement. We need to hold the government’s feet to the fire on this.

“We have no fall-back option. Aviation is not part of the World Trade Organisation.”

However, he told a select committee hearing on the impact of Brexit on tourism: “We have faith in the ability of the government to maintain market access.”

Alderslade said: “The options are we remain as a member of the single aviation market, or we have a bilateral agreement with the EU on the lines of Switzerland or we have some transitional arrangement.

“My sense is aviation single market access will be a no go because countries subscribed to it have to accept free movement of people.”

He said: “I’m confident they see this as a priority across Whitehall. We’re the third largest aviation market in the world. That connectivity is vital for us, but vital for the EU as well.

“It is a technical problem. I wouldn’t want to give the impression we’re really worried.”

Thomas Cook head of head of public affairs Stephen D’Alfonso told the committee: “I agree the government will deliver. For now, it’s business as usual.”

When it was suggested Spain could block an aviation agreement without a deal with the UK on Gibraltar, Alderslade said: “They have blocked packages in Brussels before, but given the number of people who go to Spain [from Britain} you would hope we could come to some agreement.”

He added: “There is no sense in Brussels that they want to penalise Britain on aviation.”

D’Alfonso agreed, saying: “11 million Brits went to Spain in 2016. There are clear benefits for both sides with aviation.”

Asked about the impact of Brexit on holiday prices, D’Alfonso said: “The impact this year will be quite limited. About 80% of our currency and fuel costs were hedged [for this year]. We’re used to managing currency fluctuations.”

Jeremy Osborne, Tui director of strategic innovation and business change, told the MPs: “There is a pressure on our cost base, but we’re used to dealing with global issues so it’s not something we’re overly concerned with. We buy a lot of currency in advance.

“Prices for this summer are up about 8%. There is an expectation people will spend a bit more for holidays next year.”

Asked what else concerns Tui, Osborne said: “We would not want border controls to be restrictive for customers or for our staff.”

D’Alfonso agreed: “We don’t want to see barriers to travel. We like the status quo.” Yet he added: “There is a precedent for a light-touch border regime in the visa-waiver process in the US and Canada.”

Alderslade told MPs: “It is vital the UK Border Force is given the resources it needs.”

The select committee includes Nigel Huddleston MP, former Google head of travel.

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