Leaders of the European pilots’ group, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), have welcomed changes to EU rules on wet-lease arrangements between Europe-based airlines and non-EU carriers.

The changes, agreed at an EU ‘trilogue’ meeting on Wednesday, involve a revision to wet-leasing restrictions in EU Regulation 1008/2008. Wet leases involve the lease of crew with aircraft.

The ECA said: “Without this amendment, the effect on EU quality employment and safety standards would have been potentially devastating.”

ECA president Dirk Polloczek said the changes would prevent “a gradual but severe replacement of European quality aircrew jobs by third-country aircraft and crew”.

He said: “The Commission’s original proposal had the potential to ‘convert’ third-country wet-lease into a regular feature of European airlines’ business models.”

The ECA had warned this would allow “creative airline set-ups” to wet-lease crew and aircraft from non-EU countries through “empty shell companies” registered in the EU.

Polloczek said: “The risk has been averted.”

Under the new agreement, more-flexible wet-lease provisions should only apply to non-EU countries with a “mature aviation relationship” with the EU and an air transport agreement enforcing “reciprocal rights and obligations”.