In Depth

Brexit: could your holiday be cancelled?

Aviation watchdog criticises airlines for keeping quiet about no-deal threat to thousands of flights

The trade association for the world’s airlines has called on carriers to warn passengers about how a no-deal Brexit could adversely affect their travel plans, amid fears that up to five million tickets between the UK and EU could be cancelled.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that under EU legislation that will apply to Britain from 29 March if the nation quits the bloc without an agreement, flight numbers will be capped at last year’s levels. That means carriers including British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Jet2 would be forced to abandon new routes and flights being planned to meet increased demand, The Times reports. 

And that threat appears to be growing, with a no-deal Brexit looking more likely following the defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons last week.

Although the cost of cancelled tickets would be refunded to passengers, “they would then need to compete for scarce seats and could face higher fares”, notes The Independent.

In December, airports body ACI Europe calculated that the proposed cap on UK airline services “would ultimately result in the loss of 93,000 new flights and nearly 20 million airport passengers on the UK-EU27 market”.

Meanwhile, the IATA has warned that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, British travellers would be required to have at least six months left on their passports in order to visit EU countries. 

Yet as of this week, only Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air has warned British travellers of the no-deal rules. 

On 16 January, the airline tweeted: “FOR UK PASSPORT HOLDERS ONLY. We want you to have a smooth journey, so please check if your UK passport is still valid for Europe after 29 March 2019. Further information related to other nationality passports is not yet available.”

Last week, the Department for Transport (DfT) advised expats living in the EU that their UK driving licences may no longer be valid in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Current flight delay compensation laws, which are controlled by the EU, might also be nullified. The blue European Health Insurance (Ehic) card, which covers the cost of European travellers receiving treatment while in other EU countries, would no longer be available to UK citizens either.

IATA director-general Alexandre de Juniac has described the proposed cap on flights as a “huge step backwards for all European consumers”.

“In the small window remaining before Brexit, it is imperative that the EU and UK prioritise finding a solution that brings certainty to airlines planning growth to meet demand and to travellers planning business trips and family holidays,” he added.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, called the lack of warning for passengers “alarming”, adding: “It is the job of airlines to tell passengers what is likely to happen. If they were more upfront, it would give passengers the information they need to protect themselves.”

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