IATA issued updated guidance on the potential impact of Brexit this morning and the news is not good. The lack of agreement on the future of the air travel market presents massive challenges and IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac predicts chaos if significant progress is not realized soon.
In a media briefing de Juniac took an aggressive tack, noting that negotiations thus far excluded IATA from the conversation. He described this as unprofessional and believes that IATA could serve as an independent body to help further the negotiations.
The industry should be associated. On the first of April the airlines will have to manage millions of passengers potentially grounded in airports, unable to take flights and needing to be rebooked or rerouted. If would could know in advance the elements of the agreement, to be able to plan what will happen on 1 April 2019 that would be more than useful. It will be difficult to explain to European passengers that nothing was planned in advance. Frankly, I see that as nonprofessional.
We are not part of the negotiations. We are ready to offer solutions. We are ready to offer our help. Selling tickets that we are not totally sure we are able to fulfill is slightly worrisome for us.
IATA’s Brexit concerns
IATA’s report focuses on five main Brexit risks that present significant risk to the industry:
- Air Service Agreements
- Safety Framework (EASA)
- Aviation Security
- Border Management
- Air Traffic Management
The list is short, de Juniac noted during the briefing, but “each entails a huge amount of work. Even a transition time of two years would be too short. It is hard to see how all this work can be achieved.” He was quick to point out that the concerns are not politically motivated and that IATA simply seeks to advance the flow of passengers and cargo around the globe. That effort is aided by open borders, of course, but can be accomplished in a variety of circumstances.
Chaos on the horizon
The report offers suggestions in many of these categories. IATA advocates that the UK remain in EASA, for example, to address the licensing and safety issues. This raises issues on the UK side given the use of the European Union Court of Justice as the ultimate arbiter in disputes related to the aviation safety.
The draft report reached IATA a month ago. At that time the authors hoped that future negotiations would yield some results in the very near future. Those hopes appear dashed for now. And de Juniac is clear that time is running out.
We predict chaos if nothing is done, if there is no bare-bones agreement. It would be even better if there is a transition phase or intermediate agreement found in the coming weeks, which is still possible. If there is nothing there will be chaos. It will be difficult for airlines to know if they can take off and land in the UK from Europe. It will be difficult to know if the pilot licenses are mutually recognized, if aircraft parts can be imported or exported to UK territory. There are a lot of technical issues that are absolutely key to ensure an efficient and smooth traffic flow that are not solved and that need to be solved.
Perhaps agreements will be reached, forestalling some of these challenges. But the overall tone of IATA’s position is clear. The industry is five months from a complete mess if these issues are not addressed quickly and competently.