Brexit Report: What might happen to air travel in the EU?

British Airways plane in flight

Expats probably use air travel more than most people. For some, it’s a vital link to business interests and friends and family abroad. Industry professionals led by easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall are adamant that Brexit means fares will have to rise and route options will be fewer.

The aviation sector supports 921,000 jobs in the UK according to Oxford Economics. Heathrow Airport alone is one of the county’s biggest employers – 72,000 people work there, not including flight crew. British Airways alone employs over 40,000 people. Then there are the jobs in all the other airports around the country, not to mention manufacturing like Rolls Royce aviation engines and the parts of Airbus that are made in the UK. Around 100,000 jobs are generated both directly and indirectly in the UK by Airbus wing work.

Of course, all these jobs won’t disappear but some will and industry professionals agree that the growth of the sector will be adversely affected.

The EU allows all nine Air Freedom rights (they vary from the right to overfly a foreign country to the right to fly within it without having to continue on to one’s own country) to member nations. This helps keep British airlines in business and keeps the prices down for holidaymakers as well as business travellers.

But come Brexit, British airlines will have to spend years renegotiating those freedoms with countries that will be in no hurry and in no mood to do so. They will certainly prefer to favour their own airlines instead. Air France-KLM’s budget carrier Transavia will gain where easyJet loses.

France to London routes will continue as before but British airlines will no longer have the automatic right to fly from Barcelona to Paris or from Athens to Rome or from Nice to Paris. These 7th, 8th and 9th Air Freedom flights are hundreds every week within the EU and bring massive amounts of revenue to UK airlines, helping to keep fares down.

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