Aviation must be put at the forefront of government Brexit negotiations as the UK triggered the Article 50 exit from the European Union.
The call came today from Ryanair as it warned that the UK could risk leaving the UK without any flights to and from Europe for a period from March 2019 when it exits the EU.
With the UK set to leave the European open skies system, the country will have to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the EU to allow flights to and from Europe to continue.
Otherwise it will have to revert to historical rules, which do not cover aviation, “thereby raising the distinct possibility of no flights between Europe and the UK for a period from March 2019 in the absence of a bilateral deal”.
Ryanair, which employs more than 3,000 UK staff and will carry over 44 million customers to and from British airports this year, has already swtiched growth away to other EU airports, basing no additional aircraft at its 19 UK airports in 2017 and cutting its growth rate from 15% to just 6% this year.
The carrier called on the government to “immediately outline” a strategy to maintain low fare air travel between the UK and the EU from March 2019.
It warned there is just 12 months to go until possible schedule cuts are made, as summer 2019 schedules must be released in March 2018.
Chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said: “Some nine months on from the Brexit referendum, we are no closer to knowing what effect it will have on aviation.
“It’s become worrying that the UK government seems to have no plan B to maintain Britain’s liberalised air links with Europe, in the absence of remaining in the open skies regime.
“With Britain planning to leave the EU and its open skies agreement, there is a distinct possibility that there may be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of time after March 2019.
“The best we can hope for is a new bilateral agreement between the UK and EU, however, we worry that Britain may not be able to negotiate such a bilateral in time for the release by airlines of summer 2019 schedules in mid-2018.
“Ryanair, like all airlines, plans its flights 12 months in advance, so there are just 12 months to go until we finalise our summer 2019 schedule, which could see deep cuts to our flights both to, from and within the UK from March 2019 onwards.
“The UK government must respond to the airlines and our customers, and put aviation at the top of its agenda when it negotiates its Brexit deal with Brussels. Britain’s airlines, airports and holidaymakers need a real and early solution for aviation, or risk Britain being cut off from Europe in March 2019.”
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