Leading UK travel companies are confident they are prepared for Brexit but admit it has been a costly and difficult process.

Speaking at the Travel Leaders Speak – UK Travel Market: What to expect in 2019 session at World Travel Market on Monday, easyJet chief operating officer Chris Browne was hopeful “common sense would prevail” and that the “bare bones” of a Brexit deal would be in place by the end of March next year.

As a back-up, the company has set up another airline, easyJet Europe, in Austria to protect its flying rights in the European Union once Britain leaves.

She said: “This means we will retain our flying rights. We are pretty confident we are prepared so that come April Fools Day we will be able to fly across Europe. It’s our insurance policy.

“I would not want to tell you the amount of work that has gone into our post Brexit structure, just to do what we do today. We debated long and hard but I am really happy we have done it.

“There was investment required and an awful lot of reorganisation. We cannot underestimate the impact this is having on our global workforce. It is very unsettling for our crew.”

Tui UK managing director, Andrew Flintham, said the cost of preparing the company for Brexit had been “all the energy to put everything in place to create insurance policies when we could have been doing other things”.

But he added: “We couldn’t let it get in the way of our investment decisions. As a business we are carrying on full steam ahead.”

Steve Cassidy, Hilton senior vice president and managing director UK and Ireland, said Brexit had put a “big dollop of uncertainty” into the business community but said the hotel group had continency plans in place for a no-deal scenario.

He stressed there were “not enough UK employees to fill the gap of international employees” as a result of Brexit. “One area we are working very hard with the UK government on is ensuring we can have access to these skills,” he said.

Travel Counsellors chief executive Steve Byrne said there was no doubt Brexit “posed some structure issues” for the travel industry but said: “You have got to be an optimist. Regardless of the outcome, I do believe entrepreneurs will find a way around it. Ultimately we will all just make it work.”

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