October 30, 2017 / 5:22 PM / 21 days ago

BA boss Walsh expects EU flights to weather Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - Flights between Britain and the European Union are unlikely to be grounded when it leaves the bloc, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L), said on Monday.

Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group speaks during the closing press briefing at the 2016 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit in Dublin, Ireland June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

British finance minister Philip Hammond said this month that if Britain left without a deal, this could lead to flights being grounded, adding it was in the interests of all to avoid this.

“The prospect of there being no flying between the UK and Europe, I don’t agree with at all,” Walsh told a parliamentary committee. “This would bring all of Europe to a standstill.”

Flying rights to, from and within the EU, as well as between the United States and Britain are covered by EU-wide “Open Skies” agreements. But unlike with trade, where Britain would revert to WTO rules in the event of a “no deal”, there is no default fallback option for the aviation sector.

Walsh said though that the industry is used to dealing with new regulations at short notice, such as when a ban on liquids on board aircraft came into place.

He added that he would like more clarity about Britain’s role in the European Aviation Safety Agency after it leaves the EU and what rules it will follow, because that has implications for the way airlines maintain and operate their aircraft.

One option would be for Britain to be an associate member of the European Aviation Safety Agency, Walsh, who said he had voted to “remain” in Britain in the referendum last year, added.

Walsh told the committee that he had no concerns about flying rights between Britain and the United States, adding that “one second” after Britain leaves the EU there will be an Open Skies treaty with the United States.

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye told lawmakers he was encouraged because of talks going on “behind the scenes with U.S. and other markets.”

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Victoria Bryan; editing by David Milliken and Alexander Smith

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