Deadline Approaching: Will Brexit Affect Commercial Flights in America?

Published: 02-25-2019
Brexit is fast approaching. There's no still deal for airline regulation. How does that affect pilots?

After being a part of the European Union for about 40 years, the United Kingdom has decided to leave. While this referendum has led to shockwaves and repercussions across Europe, our focus is closer to home with American pilots.

Exiting the European Union leaves many trade and business deals in jeopardy, and this could specifically harm airline travel and cargo shipments. Let’s take a brief look at what the Brexit is and whether this will affect you.

How Did Brexit Happen?

Brexit, short for “British Exit,” was put to a national vote. The citizens had two options: “Leave” or “Stay”.

After a vicious campaign, Leave won by 1.3%, a small margin with huge impact. Whether the decision was a smart move is still debated in the United Kingdom and Europe, with many arguing that “Leave” would not win if the vote were repeated.

Regardless, with the decision made, the UK is unable to continue domestic imports and exports set up by the EU. And with the UK going off on its own, new regulations need to be made for entering and exiting the UK.

If the regulatory hurdles are not cleared, traffic will come to a halt. And the date to come up with these regulations is fast approaching - March 29th.

Deal or No Deal?

Some backup regulations were set in place to reduce border issues in Ireland, which continues to be part of the United Kingdom. Other than that, nothing is prepared to smooth out the exit.

Once the vote concluded, Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron (who wanted to remain in the EU) resigned. The newly-elected Prime Minister Theresa May crafted a long deal about how to leave the EU, but it was rejected by the House of Commons this year.

EU governs the UK’s aviation access to well over 40 countries. US and Canada included. Since the UK is no longer part of the EU, these access rights will need to be reforged. And that takes time.

To appreciate how dire that last sentence is consider this. The Brexit is official on March 29th.

If a deal is not made to maintain access, import, and export rights to countries, such as America, traffic to the UK will be virtually non-existent.

Airlines Response

With UK access likely to be prohibited, commercial airliners are already taking action. Many have started implementing clauses stating tickets may not be valid as of March 29th. But at least those airlines will continue operating.

Flybmi, a British airline, announced plans to file bankruptcy and ceased operations. An official spokesperson state the move was due to business uncertainty. Which is understandable considering importing and exporting may come to a grinding halt next month.

If a deal is not accepted before the deadline, pilots should anticipate a massive reduction in UK flights. And that may begin sooner than later.

As for pilots, layoffs may begin or planned routes may be shuffled around. A single decision in the UK may have ripple effects across the globe.

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