The International Air Transport Association is worried that a contingency plan allowing flights between the UK and European Union in a no-deal Brexit scenario may still not prevent some flight disruptions, its chief said.
Measures to continue operating UK-EU flights for a year based on traffic levels of 2018 do not take into account additional growth in 2019, Alexandre de Juniac, Iata's director general, said on Thursday. Therefore, under the current measures for a no-deal scenario, flights must be adjusted once traffic exceeds the 2018 levels.
“If we have growth in 2019, then what will happen? Flights above the level of 2018 will have to be reduced, cancelled, delayed if they don’t reach an agreement,” he said. “I hope we can influence and tell the UK and European authorities to be more flexible.”
With just less than three months before Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is being debated in parliament ahead of a vote in the coming days. The European Commission earlier said it would take measures to avoid “full interruption” of air traffic between the UK and EU in a no-deal case to ensure basic connectivity. It adopted a proposal for regulation to ensure 12 months of air services between the UK and EU and the validity of aviation safety licenses for 9 months, according to its December 19 statement.
“We are a bit worried because the first guidelines that have been issued, I think represent a constraint on the traffic,” Mr de Juniac said.
[ Middle East airlines expecting more turbulence in 2019 remain optimistic on strong travel demand ]
[ Middle East bucks trend of flat global cargo volumes, IATA says ]
There is a need to “calibrate” the number of flights allowed between the UK and EU to avoid “serious constraints” on the traffic between them in the weeks and months after Britain leaves the bloc, he said.
Iata does not expect flights to be grounded immediately if the UK and EU fail to reach a divorce agreement ahead of March 29.
Mr de Juniac said the spread of protectionist policies in 2019 is the key challenge facing the aviation industry overall.
Escalating trade tensions did not have a significant affect on air cargo flows so far, Mr de Juniac said.
Iata expects global air freight volumes to grow 3.7 per cent in 2019 but the outlook is at risk from protectionist trade measures, Iata said in its monthly report on Wednesday.
Global passenger traffic is forecast to grow 6 per cent this year but the Middle East is expected to perform “a bit below” that level because of ongoing political turmoil and regional carriers reaching normalised growth after years of massive expansion, Mr de Juniac said.
“The development of Middle East airlines has been very, very fast during the 2000s until 2014, but at a certain stage it reaches a cruise rhythm, a normal rhythm, so it’s not at all surprising now the region has come back to the average,” he said. “You also have competition from super-connectors in other parts of the world.”
Rising oil prices, currency volatility and intensifying competition dented earnings at the Gulf airlines last year.
Following a series of cyber-attacks on airlines’ systems last year, Iata is also setting up an industry committee in June to deal with physical and cyber security threats, Mr de Juniac said.
A sophisticated hack on systems of Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific last year exposed the personal data of 9.4 million passengers in the world’s biggest airline data breach.
Mr de Juniac was speaking in Dubai following a tour of the region where he urged governments to “co-operate more” on policies affecting the Middle East aviation industry.