Urgent action is needed on contingency planning to avoid chaos and ensure aircraft keep flying in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Aviation trade body Iata urged the UK and the European Union to move much faster to bring certainty to three “critical” air transport issues:

• The uninterrupted continuation of air connectivity
• The framework for regulating safety and security, and
• The policies and processes needed for efficient border management

Iata director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: “These are the most critical areas because there are no fall back agreements such as the WTO framework available in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario.

“Without any contingency planning being made transparent to the industry, the risks of not addressing these issues could mean chaos for travellers and interrupted supply chains.

“With less than six months to go, we have little more certainty than we did in June 2016.”

The call for urgent attention to air transport issues in Brexit follows the release of an Iata-commissioned study in the impact of the UK leaving the EU on airlines flying to and from the UK.

A “high degree of uncertainty and risk” to air services remains even in the best-case scenario, where a Brexit transition phase is agreed for the period after March 2019, Iata warned.

A no-deal or ‘hard’ Brexit outcome, without an agreement for a transition period, is likely to lead to “significant disruption” to air services.

Moreover, the lack of transparency concerning any contingency planning for this scenario has left airlines “completely in the dark” as to what measures to take.

“The EU and UK have a responsibility to millions of their citizens who depend on reliable air transportation. The goal should be a comprehensive air services agreement that does not step backwards from the connectivity existing today,” said de Juniac.

“But with the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit still on the table this late in the game, it is now essential that the EU and UK civil aviation authorities plan for contingency arrangements to maintain a minimum level of connectivity, which is vital for people and for business.

“This has to be one of the most important Brexit considerations. A backstop contingency plan to keep planes flying after March must be published, and quickly.”

Whatever Brexit scenario unfolds, Iata wants the UK to remain in the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) at least as a ‘third country member’.

And Easa and the UK Civil Aviation Authority should be allowed to initiate detailed technical discussions on the future relationship between the two bodies.

Mutual recognition of professional licences, standards for materials and parts, and other safety elements, should be put in place to come into effect immediately after March, according to Iata.

Aviation security, for both passengers and cargo, will be “highly impacted” in case of a no deal scenario.

When it comes to recognition of security measures, all parties should work towards a deal where the status quo, is maintained.

“It is ridiculous that formal discussions on the future relationship between EASA and the UK CAA have been forbidden,” de Juniac said.

“This is aviation safety we are talking about – the number one priority for everyone connected with air transport and the top responsibility for governments. We understand the complexity of the political issues at stake. But safety and security should be non-negotiable.”

A no-deal Brexit increases the likelihood of EU travellers being added to already over-long queues at UK passport control.
An alternative scenario would be to create a ‘third lane’ which could process EU passengers more quickly.

But in either scenario, investment is needed to recruit and train more staff, according to Iata.

“Interference with the movement of people and goods will have a major and immediate knock-on impact to economic activity in both the UK and the EU,” said de Juniac.

“Solutions to minimise disruption are of paramount importance. We must have clarity on future border and customs arrangements now, if we are to plan for an orderly post-Brexit situation.”