Brexit will be disaster for UK airlines?: Will pilot unions threaten Open Skies? CAPA London Summit

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As uncertainty swirls around the impact of any post-Brexit arrangements for the future of British airlines in the EU, there is similar ambiguity over the effects of Britain's de facto withdrawal (or not) from the groundbreaking North Atlantic multilateral agreement that allows enormous flexibility to European and North American airlines.

There are even some concerns that the pre-Brexit conditions are already harming British - and some other - airlines. There are some hints too that in Europe one or two airlines

On the other hand, perhaps conditions after Britain's exit from the EU will be benign and the respective governments can find win-win situations that may actually improve operating provisions.

These issues will be the subject of CAPA's Great Debate to open the CAPA Summit in London on 12-Oct-2017.

Brexit will be a disaster for UK airlines?: the Great Debate at CAPA's London World Summit

For more details on the full event agenda, please see CAPA World Aviation Summit

Some of our expert panellists

The need for Brexit action, with some concern that aviation will merely be lost in a fog of other issues

As things stand, the UK will have to negotiate and agree separate agreements with the EU states and with the US, to retain the advantages of membership of the EU and as a joint party to the North Atlantic Open Skies agreement.

One thing is clear: the current environment creates great uncertainty, something that is not good for industry confidence, nor for consumers.

While UK Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal for a two year transition period may ease the risk of breakage of the system, it also may extend the period of uncertainty.

Several industry leaders have already publicly expressed their opinions on Brexit and the Brexit negotiations:

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary to the European Parliament Transport and Tourism Committee, Jul-2017:

"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.

"There is not going to be an interim agreement, there is not going to be a legal basis, we will be cancelling flights, we will be cancelling people's holidays for summer of 2019.

"This is going to be a real mess," Mr O'Leary said, before adding, "Brexit will be one of the great economic suicide notes in history....

"By September 2018 when your average British voter is sitting down to work out where he is going on his holidays in 2019, the two options he will have are to drive to Scotland or get a ferry to Ireland."

International Airlines Group CEO, Willie Walsh, Jul-2017:

"With policy support it ought to be relatively straightforward to agree a deal on aviation that will be ready when the UK leaves the EU."

A4A (Airlines for America) CEO Nick Calio, Jul-2017:

"If there is no agreement between the UK and EU by March 2019, other sectors fall back on World Trade Organisation rules but we have no legal framework under which to fly.

"Divorce proceedings have just started but the negotiators have a lot of issues to deal with and our concern is aviation getting lost in a sea of very important issues. The EU wants to negotiate one large agreement without splitting things out but we believe you have to separate aviation.

"To avoid operational disruption and passenger inconvenience, if the parties have not reached agreement on Open Skies by April 2018, they should at least agree to transitional arrangements that will preserve the status quo post-Brexit until such an agreement is reached."

And, if N Atlantic Open Skies needs revisiting, will pilots' unions challenge key provisions?

As the (much delayed) entry of Norwegian on the North Atlantic has clearly illustrated, pilot unions find several of the provisions of the carefully negotiated North Atlantic Open Skies agreement offensive to the status quo.

Renegotiating the terms under the duress of a tight timeframe is not going to be a simple task. There is much at stake if this hard fought multilateral compromise is reopened. It would potentially place at stake significant competition in the tightly held North Atlantic market, where over 70% of all services are operated under immunised joint ventures.

The second panel of this Brexit examination will look at the possible scenarios as the UK's withdrawal from the EU evolves.

For more details on the full event agenda, please see CAPA World Aviation Summit

DAY 1: 12 OCTOBER 2017


10:40 Brexit will be a disaster for UK airlines?: the Great Debate

After years of operating - highly successfully - within the single skies of Europe, UK-registered airlines are imminently threatened by the prospect of withdrawal of their freedom to operate without restriction throughout the EU. Moreover there are several European airlines that would relish the thought of these aggressive competitors being excluded from their home markets. Reversion to the need to negotiate individual bilateral agreements with each EU country would almost certainly be highly disruptive and potentially lead to much more restrictive operating conditions.

Despite there being so much at stake for UK-registered airlines (and, by extension possibly Irish registered airlines), there is little to suggest the UK government is treating the airline industry with any level of priority. It has bigger issues to address.

On the other hand, these issues may be resolved with a pragmatic approach on all sides. This Great Debate will look at all sides of the UK-Europe issue.

The following panel will discuss the implications for Britain under the North Atlantic multilateral agreement, where the UK may need to renegotiate its status on a bilateral basis.

11:15 Renegotiating the North Atlantic multilateral post-Brexit. Will unions try to wind back the liberal terms?

Will unions intervene to wind back key provisions of the North Atlantic ?

It is not only UK-Europe that is deeply affected by Brexit, but also the position of the UK in a multilateral agreement that binds the UK-EU in the context of the North American open skies.

This implies the need to rework the terms of the multilateral agreement - either to include or to exclude the UK, with accompanying need for replacement bilateral agreements between the relevant parties.

This alone is complex. But the history of the original negotiations also revolved greatly around the more liberal approach adopted by the UK as compared with some of the more powerful EU member states.

Can this maze of agreements be negotiated, while keeping the liberalised multilateral terms in place? For example will the various airline unions, vigilant to maintain their respective philosophical positions, seek to claw back some of the more liberal provisions?

With such a challenging process in prospect, what is being done now and what is likely to be the outcome once the UK leaves the EU? This panel looks in depth at these aspects of the Brexit conundrum

For more details on the full event agenda, please see CAPA World Aviation Summit

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