Airlines and passengers remain in the dark regarding air travel after the UK leaves the EU.


The United Kingdom and European Union must act urgently regarding Brexit contingency plans as the possibility of a 'no-deal' situation continues to loom large, IATA has said.

Calling on the two parties to bring more certainty to the air transport sector surrounding Brexit, IATA pinpointed three critical issues—continuing air connectivity, safety and security frameworks, and efficient border management—as requiring urgent attention.

This follows the release of an IATA-commissioned study on the effects Brexit will have on airlines flying to and from the UK, with IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac warning of “chaos” if air transport contingency plans are not discussed in close detail.

A backstop contingency plan to keep planes flying after March must be published, and quickly

“These are the most critical areas because there are no fallback agreements such as the WTO framework available in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario,” he said. 

“Without any contingency planning being made transparent to the industry, the risks of not addressing these issues could mean chaos for travelers and interrupted supply chains. With less than six months to go, we have little more certainty than we did in June 2016.”

Airlines have been left in the dark due to a lack of transparency regarding contingency plans, with a “hard” no-deal outcome expected to cause significant disruption. 

Even the more favourable possibilities, such as a Brexit transition phase to be agreed following the UK's withdrawal date in March 2019, hold a high degree of uncertainty and risk for air services.

“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.

“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.”

On the issue of safety and security, IATA warned that there must be “no compromise” for keeping people and cargo safe and secure.

Regardless of the outcome of the UK's eventual withdrawal in March, IATA has implored Britain to remain in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) at least as a ‘third country member’, and said all parties should work towards retaining the status quo on security measures.

The EU and UK have a responsibility to millions of their citizens who depend on reliable air transportation

IATA believes that EASA and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be allowed to initiate detailed technical discussions on the future relationship between the two bodies, with de Juniac calling it "ridiculous" that formal discussions between the two bodies have not been allowed.

"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," he said.

Regarding border management, IATA said it hopes an agreement can be made to create a 'third lane' to process EU passengers more quickly at UK passport control, and that whether this happens or not, further investment in staff will be required.

The situation regarding goods is even more complex, with almost no clarity on customs arrangements. IATA said the most likely scenario, even under a transition period, is for shipments to be delayed or disrupted, as new customs procedures become established.