Ryanair seeks UK AOC to save UK-EU flights
On 21 December 2017, Ryanair applied to the UK CAA seeking an AOC to safeguard its existing and future UK-originating operations against a hard Brexit amid little progress on a new aviation deal between the UK and Europe.
A Ryanair spokesperson suggested that its application “may be required for Ryanair’s three UK domestic routes in the event of a hard Brexit in March 2019.” But the reality of the impact on the airline’s UK operations post-Brexit is much bigger than that, and it is something that the ULCC’s boss warned of last summer. “There is a real prospect, and we need to deal with this, that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019,”.
The two most important of the nine freedoms impacted by a hard Brexit for Ryanair’s current UK operations are:
- Seventh freedom rights – the right to fly between two foreign countries while not offering flights to one’s own country (for example a flight from the UK to Spain by Ryanair);
- Ninth freedom rights – the right to fly within a foreign country without continuing to one’s own country (for example a flight flown between London and Edinburgh by Ryanair).
Neil Pakey, Chairman of the UK Regional and Business Airports’ Group (RABA) says: “UK regional airports need assurances that UK-EU seventh freedom, and UK domestic ninth freedom air services will continue throughout 2019 and beyond. People forget how hard our regional airports lobbied for a single aviation market in the first place because we needed European airlines to connect our regions to European cities and also to other UK cities. We live in hope that the single aviation market will continue for the UK, much in the way it does between the EU and Norway, as this is the best way to safeguard existing UK connections. Aviation is not covered by any world trade agreement, and the alternative of negotiating 27 separate UK bilateral agreements with each EU member state would be a bureaucratic nightmare, both for the UK and for the EU member states. The EU member states equally have tourists and business travellers who need access to UK regions. We just need both sides to see sense, like now.’