The UK Government released more contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit on 24 September, many of which cover flights and aviation safety and security.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has praised the plans, saying they bring some much-needed clarity, while acknowledging there would be a huge amount of extra work in a no-deal scenario.
“The other side to all this is the sheer scale of the administrative burden required to keep planes flying if there is no deal on anything with the EU,” said Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton.
“On pilot licences alone, if some UK licence holders have to switch to an EU licence this can take each one several months and so an efficient, fast track approach is needed for all these processes and the authorities need to be properly resourced to carry them out.”
Although detailed, the papers are still unclear on various issues that could affect holidaymakers. Here’s everything we know so far.
Flights to and from the EU
If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no deal, UK and EU licensed airlines lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission – airlines operating between the UK and the EU would need to seek individual permissions to operate.
The government says it would envisage granting permission to EU airlines to continue to operate and that it would expect EU countries to reciprocate, but the EU hasn’t confirmed this. If permissions aren’t granted, there could be disruption to flights.
UK-licensed airlines would need two permissions in order to keep flying to and from the EU: one from the national authorities of each individual state, each of which has its own processes, and one from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Union Agency responsible for civil aviation safety, giving them safety authorisation. The UK “would expect the recognition of equivalent safety standards to be on a reciprocal basis” – but again, the EU hasn’t confirmed that this would happen.
EU-licensed airlines would lose the ability to operate wholly within the UK (eg from Heathrow to Edinburgh), and UK-licensed airlines would lose the ability to operate intra-EU air services (eg from Milan to Paris).
In the event of no deal the existing airport security regulations and procedures will be retained in domestic law under the EU Withdrawal Act.
However, although the plans say “there is no reason for the UK’s aviation security regime not to be recognised by the EU as equivalent, which would mean no additional security restrictions would need to be imposed by either the EU or the UK,” the EU is saying something rather different. In the preparedness notices issued by the European Commission, they’ve indicated that they will not recognise the UK aviation security system.
“This could have significant operational and cost implications for those EU airports, and passengers may have to factor increased time for rescreening into their travel schedule,” says the government.
Practically speaking, it means UK passengers would have to be rescreened when flying between two EU countries.
The technical rules and standards of EU aviation safety legislation would be retained and applied by the UK as domestic law, through the provisions of the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018.
If there’s no deal, the automatic mutual recognition of aviation safety certificates, provided for under the EASA system, would cease to apply to the UK.
The government has said all aircraft certificates and other documents that are valid and issued by organisations approved in accordance with EASA requirements prior to exit day would remain valid after Brexit.
However, the EU “has indicated that it would take a different approach to the UK”, rather than offering a reciprocal deal. The information notices issued by the European Commission say that certificates previously issued by the CAA before exit day would no longer be automatically accepted in the EASA system after 29 March 2019.
The good news is that passengers will have the same rights after the UK leaves the EU, retained in domestic law by the Withdrawal Act. These include: passengers subject to denied boarding, delay or cancellation would be entitled to assistance and compensation on the same basis as today; passengers with reduced mobility would still be entitled to the same assistance from airports and airlines; and UK consumer protection in the event of insolvency of a travel provider would continue to apply.
Travelling with pets
Pets would continue to be able to travel from the UK to the EU, but the requirements for documents and health checks would differ depending on what category of third country the UK becomes on the day we leave the EU. Within the Pet Travel Scheme, there are three categorisations of “third country”, linked to a country’s animal health status: “listed: Part 1”, “listed: Part 2”, or “unlisted”.
A small number of countries and territories are Part 1 listed, which means they operate under the same EU Pet Travel Scheme rules as EU member states. The majority of countries are Part 2 listed, which means additional conditions, such as the use of temporary health certificates.
If a country has not applied or been accepted as a Part 1 or Part 2 listed country, it is an unlisted third country, and owners must take some specific actions several months before they wish to travel.
Is there anything people can do now to prepare?
Not really – it’s all so up in the air (pun intended) that there’s no point trying to second guess what will happen. It will be in all countries’ and airlines’ best interests to sort it out, but there are still a lot of unknowns.
Don’t put off travelling to the EU – but perhaps don’t book travel on or just after the no deal date, 29 March 2019, if you’re worried about things being slightly more chaotic than normal.
It might be wise to consider booking an Atol-protected holiday if travelling after 29 March – if the very worst did happen and your holiday was cancelled, at least you’d be refunded.
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