With less than 200 days to go until the UK officially leaves the European Union, airlines are still waiting for clarification on whether they will face any kind of disruption following the withdrawal.
The UK formally announced its intention to quit the EU in March 2017, but 18 months later has still to agree on an exit deal.
Reports in the UK media earlier this month suggest that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had written to individual European countries (effectively bypassing the EU) in a bid to ensure flights can take off and land after March 29, 2019. The move prompted an angry response from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.
Despite the fact that there is no deal yet in sight, EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said at a press conference last week that he had had assurances from Grayling and his counterpart in the EU— Hololei, the director-general for mobility and transport—that at the very least the two sides would reach a basic agreement.
“We know that everybody has said that regardless what’s going to happen in terms of deal or no deal that there will be a barebones agreement in place,” Lundgren said.
“It would be inconceivable that there wouldn’t be flights between the UK and Europe.”
Lundgren’s more relaxed attitude isn’t shared by his counterpart at Ryanair, Michael O’Leary (perhaps unsurprising given the carrier’s numerous warnings over Brexit).
At a press conference in London today, O’Leary said that the Transport Secretary had yet to explain what would happen in the event of the UK and EU not reaching a deal.
“We saw some reports that there were going to be bilaterals [agreements between two countries]. I just don’t think there will be bilaterals. If you look at the behaviour of the European side, the 27 have remained remarkably united in not being carved up into bilaterals. I do think it’s possible that there will be an agreement on flights reached between the UK and European 27 I’m just not sure it will be reached in time for the 1st of April next year,” O’Leary said.
“I don’t believe a no-flights scenario will last more than a couple days or a couple of weeks because I think politically it’ll get solved pretty damn quickly.”