IATA laments continuing uncertainty over Brexit since June 2016 referendum

International airline industry group IATA has called for urgent action by the UK and the European Union to put in place contingency planning for the continuation of air services in the event of a ‘no-deal Brexit’.

It also wants the parties to move much faster to bring certainty to safeguarding the uninterrupted continuation of air connectivity and provide a framework for regulating safety and security and the policies and processes needed for efficient border management.

The call for urgent attention to air transport issues with Brexit follows the release of an IATA-commissioned study of the effects of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on airlines flying to and from the UK. The report, ‘A study of the effects of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on airlines flying to and from the UK’, by Taylor Airey, in conjunction with Frontier Economics highlights that even in the best-case scenario, where a Brexit transition phase is agreed for the period after March, a high degree of uncertainty and risk to air services remains.

IATA says a no-deal or ‘hard’ Brexit outcome, without an agreement for a transition period, is likely to lead to significant disruption to air services. It added that the lack of transparency concerning any contingency planning for this scenario has left airlines ‘completely in the dark’.

“These are the most critical areas because there are no fall-back agreements such as the WTO framework available in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario,” said Alexandre de Juniac, director general, IATA.

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

IATA believes that the ideal outcome for the industry would obviously be a comprehensive air services agreement that does replicates today’s connectivity although even at this advanced stage with less than six months to the MArch deadline, there remains no clarity over the rules.

“It is now essential that the EU and UK civil aviation authorities plan for contingency arrangements to maintain a minimum level of connectivity, which is vital for people and for business. 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,” said the IATA chief.

IATA insists the UK should remain in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) at least as a ‘third country member’, and EASA and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be allowed to initiate detailed technical discussions on the future relationship between the two bodies. Despite the complexity of the political issues at stake, “safety and security should be non-negotiable,” said de Juniac.

IATA said a no-deal Brexit could increase the likelihood of EU travellers being added to already long queues at UK passport control and while an alternative ‘third lane’ scenario that could process EU passengers more quickly is an option, investment would be required to recruit and train more staff. The situation regarding goods is even more complex, with almost no clarity on customs arrangements, according to IATA. The most likely scenario, even under a transition period, is for shipments to be delayed or disrupted, as new customs procedures become established.