In Brief

The battle over post-Brexit flight rights

UK planes may be grounded unless a post-Brexit aviation deal is agreed

British planes could be grounded and holidaymakers stranded if Britain fails to agree new flying rights with the EU and other countries before it leaves the bloc next March.

At present, Britain is set to leave the EU’s Open Skies Agreement on 30 March 2019. If this happens without a replacement deal in place, British airlines will lose all the flying rights the EU has negotiated with third countries, as well as those negotiated by individual EU states.

“Both airlines and airports have been vocal about the risks posed by the no-deal scenario and have urged London and Brussels to quickly provide certainty for the industry,” says Reuters.

The problem is extremely time-sensitive, with most carriers set to announce their 2019 flight schedule this summer, and some claiming they cannot guarantee flights will be running or routes available without some idea if there will be a deal in place by April next year.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary “has repeatedly warned that flights could be grounded if an aviation deal is not reached as part of the Brexit negotiations”, reports The Sun.

In just one example of the problems posed by negotiating a bespoke aviation deal, The Financial Times reported that the US is preparing to offer the UK a worse “open skies” deal after Brexit than it had as an EU member, “in a negotiating stance that would badly hit the transatlantic operating rights of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic”.

The FT claims that American negotiators have offered only a standard bilateral agreement, which “typically require airlines to be majority owned and controlled by parties from their country of origin” and which would be “problematic” for British carriers as they have large foreign shareholdings.

All this may seem technical but it could have serious consequences for consumers.

The consumer group Which? has called on travel firms to do more to highlight the possible financial implications for customers if no agreement to continue flights is reached.

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