With less than a week to go before Westminster's vote on the agreement approved by Brussels, uncertainty still haunts airlines. As is the case within several other industries, no one really knows what will happen to air traffic between the EU and Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit. With the possibility of Brexit damaging not only British airlines but also the biggest airlines in Europe, Ryanair, Iberia, Vueling and Lufthansa, the question arises: what are the possible risks or consequences for the airlines and air travel?
How will Brexit impact airlines?
A complete halt to air traffic between the EU and the UK
The worst possible situation would be a complete halt to air traffic between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Of course, this situation is highly unlikely. However, some airlines, such as Ryanair, have already added a Brexit clause in their terms and conditions. In the event of a non-agreement in regards to the Brexit deal, this clause would then activate, enabling Ryanair to cancel flights without facing liability. Almost all experts acknowledge that this will not happen and expect that an agreement will be reached. However, Ryanair preferred to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
The biggest risk is that Britain will find itself outside of the Open Skies agreement by leaving the European Union. This agreement allows airlines to connect two cities outside their home country. It is through this agreement that EasyJet, a British company, can, for example, operate a flight between Paris and Copenhagen.
The UK would also have to establish agreements with each Member State of the European Union so that European companies could continue to land on British soil. Reciprocally, British airlines would be allowed to use the airspace of each Member State.
Although British Airways does not operate intra-European flights, the IAG (International Airlines Group) to which it belongs, as well as Iberia, Aer Lingus, Level and Vueling, is based in London. This could cause many problems after March 2019 due to the location of its headquarters. Some companies, such as EasyJet, have taken the initiative and have already set up new HQs within the EU (Vienna).
Non-European ownership, a much more serious threat to IAG and Ryanair
The shareholders of IAG airlines, EasyJet or even Ryanair, the Irish budget-airline, are largely composed of members from outside the European Union. However, it is essential to have a majority of shareholders from the European Union in order to obtain a European licence. It is thanks to this licence that airlines have the right to fly freely wherever they wish within the EU.
After Brexit, 70% of Ryanair will be owned by non-EU shareholders and it’s the same case for 80% of the IAG. It is certainly valid to ask questions about their future.
Ryanair has already announced its intention to "Europeanise" its shareholder base. Among the measures announced, they plan to withdraw the voting rights of non-EU shareholders, thus encouraging them to sell their shares.
It would appear that the CEOs of these airlines have already requested the negotiators a year of transition post-Brexit. This provisional period would allow them to find solutions regarding their shareholdings.
Will flights be cancelled because of Brexit?
British airlines protected by an agreement already signed by the USA and the UK
The United Kingdom feared that, in the event of a no-deal, it would lose its flight agreements with the United States; also members of the "Open Skies" agreement. Last week, the United Kingdom and the United States managed to reach an agreement allowing flights between the two countries to continue regardless of Brexit’s outcome. So, the answer to the questions is: probably not, but there is no certainty.
However, this agreement will not make it any easier for the IAG and its problems regarding Brexit. Indeed, in the event of the group keeping a British licence, it will be able to benefit from the agreement signed with the USA but the whole problem with the EU will persist. In the scenario of IAG obtaining a Spanish licence, therefore an EU licence, it will not be able to benefit from the agreement that Great Britain has just signed with the United States. A situation worthy of being called a Chinese puzzle!
Will my passenger rights be protected after Brexit?
Although there is still a lot of uncertainty about how a post-Brexit UK will function, Enid Heenk, Head of Legal at Flight-Delayed.co.uk, has confirmed that passenger rights will still be protected when departing from the EU. "A delayed flight, or cancelled for that matter, to the United Kingdom will always remain eligible for compensation as long as it has departed from the European Union. As stipulated in European regulation EC No. 261/2004, if a flight departing from the European Union has been cancelled or if it has arrived with a delay greater than three hours, its passengers may be entitled to compensation between €250 and €600".
If your flight has been delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation! Don't let the airlines lie to you. If you would prefer not to waste your time and test your patience, just let us know as we would be more than happy to assist you. With an elaborate database on actual flight schedules and weather conditions, years of experience and a 98% success rate in court, we're more than well equipped to take on your claim. Did we forget to mention our no win, no fee structure? If we need to take your case to court, we'll take all of the risks and cover legal fees. Only if you get paid will we charge a 25% success fee.
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