Lufthansa: Brexit to hit UK airlines as EU gets tough

Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr expects France and Germany to take a hard line against the UK aviation industry in Brexit negotiations, threatening to disrupt flight connections across Europe.

“Brexit means Brexit — our industry won’t be exempt,” said Mr Spohr. “The basic approach is for every industry to say ‘hey, let’s pretend that nothing has happened.’ That’s something the governments, and also the EU Commission, won’t go along with. You can be sure about that from what I hear,” he added.

Flights between EU nations are regulated by the Single European Sky treaty and the UK will likely need a new agreement once it leaves the bloc.

In addition, British carriers that fly from one European state to another will probably require an operating license based somewhere on the continent.

The UK is set to leave the common market two years after the divorce process is officially triggered today.

It’ll be “virtually impossible” for governments to reach a comprehensive agreement in the time available for talks, said Mr Spohr, the chief executive of Germany’s largest airline.

That means there’ll be a transition period with likely disruptions as the sector adjusts to new rules, he said.

A German transport ministry representative recently told a group of parliamentarians at a closed meeting that Britain would likely lose its membership in the Single European Sky agreement, and that a new deal would then need to be negotiated.

Mr Spohr is expecting Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande to oppose special treatment for the industry, in spite of calls from the likes of British Transport Minister Chris Grayling to prioritise the airline sector in Brexit negotiations.

“The UK airlines say they want a shortcut,” said Mr Spohr. “But that’s something Mr Hollande and Mrs Merkel won’t do.”

UK airlines have warned that a hard Brexit scenario would hit their business.

While British Airways owner IAG already has several European operating certificates via its continental arms, EasyJet is still in the process of establishing an air operating certificate in an EU state.

Ireland’s Ryanair has said it needs at least 12 months to adjust its routes and ticket sales once the new rules are decided.

As an EU carrier, Ryanair would also require a license to operate its handful of UK domestic flights.

The company, which draws about 40% of its customers from Britain, has said it may have to forego its intra-UK routes after Brexit.

Bloomberg

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