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European airlines and airports
are hunkering down as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in March
seems increasingly possible after
the UK Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed set of
terms for the UK’s departure from
the European Union (EU).
UK Prime Minister Theresa
May survived a vote of no con-
fidence shortly after the Jan. 15
Brexit vote. But that did nothing
to clarify what would happen next
in the Brexit process or its impact
on commercial aviation.
The UK set a deadline of
March 29 to separate from the
EU after those in favor of leaving
won a 2016 public referendum.
For airlines and airports, that
means there is almost no time
left that will be sufficient to prepare for what happens after that
IATA warned that a no-deal Brexit "could lead to a cap on
flights that will stunt important economic growth opportunities
and may lead to higher prices for consumers."
The organization explained that guidance from the European
Commission calls for current numbers of flights between the UK
and the EU to be maintained in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but
it would not allow for an increase in the number of flights operated in 2019 compared with 2018.
IATA predicts that up to 5 million extra seats will need to be
flown this year to keep up with
growing demand, but these are
now “at risk.”
"That current flight levels will be
protected, even with a hard Brexit,
is an important assurance. But with
two months left until Britain leaves
the EU, airlines still do not know
exactly what kind of Brexit they
should be planning for. And there
is legal and commercial uncertainty over how the Commission’s plan
to cap flight numbers will work,"
IATA CEO and director general
Alexandre de Juniac said.
"In the small window remaining
before Brexit, it is imperative that
the EU and UK prioritize finding
a solution that brings certainty to
airlines planning growth to meet
demand and to travelers planning
business trips and family holidays."
ACI Europe is equally alarmed about the potential impact on
airline capacity growth of a no-deal Brexit. The airport body's
director general, Olivier Jankovec, said a no-deal Brexit was
"the most immediate risk" for EU airports.
"We are faced with the prospect of a capacity freeze on all
UK-EU27 air routes, the modalities of which still need to be
defined," Jankovec said. "If confirmed, UK airports would of
course be the hardest hit, but many airports across the EU27
would also suffer—especially in Ireland and Spain, as well as
smaller regional airports elsewhere that depend on UK traffic."
US aviation feels the pinch as government shutdown drags on
FAA recalled aviation safety inspectors
and engineers to work without pay as a US
government partial shutdown continued
from 2018 well into January, making it the
longest in US history and affecting most
FAA anticipated 2,200 inspectors and
engineers would return to work by Jan.
18. Overall plans called for recalling 3,113
people employed by the agency’s Aviation
Safety Organization, but a breakdown of
positions was not available.
The shutdown of multiple federal agen-
cies started Dec. 22 because of an impasse
over President Donald Trump’s demand for
$5.7 billion funds toward building a wall on
the US-Mexico border. Democrats, newly
in control of the House, are opposed to
During government shutdowns, workers
deemed essential to national safety and
security, such as TSA agents and air traffic
controllers, can be required to work with-
out pay; other employees are furloughed,
meaning they do not work. Typically, all
employees are back paid once the govern-
ment reopens. But with no end in sight as
the shutdown period drew close to a full
month, some agencies are having to reas-
sess which employees are essential.
US airline executives, meanwhile,
acknowledged the shutdown was affecting
their businesses, but downplayed immediate and long-term ramifications.
"We're not going to speculate what's
going to happen with the government
shutdown," Delta Air Lines president Glen
Hauenstein told analysts on the airline's
fourth-quarter (Q4) earnings call Jan. 15.
"We don't expect it to have a meaningful
impact on the unit-cost guidance in either
the [first] quarter or the year."
But Delta did say the shutdown would
likely cost it $25 million in revenue in
January because of reduced travel by furloughed government workers, contractors,
and others whose trips relied on the entire
US government being open for business,
along with other factors.
United Airlines, which has a hub at
Washington Dulles International Airport,
has the largest exposure among the US
majors because of its presence in the capi-
tal. But CFO Gerald Laderman told analysts
on the carrier's Q4 earnings that it could
not pin a number on the impact. Both car-
riers were experiencing fleet-related
disruptions because of the shutdown,
however. United has one used Airbus
A319 that needs FAA approval before it
can be introduced into its fleet, and Delta
says introduction of its Airbus A220s,
scheduled for Jan. 31, would likely be
delayed because it needed FAA approv-
als. Delta also said it may not be able to
put its new A330-900neos into service
for similar reasons.
Southwest Airlines’ long-awaited launch
of Hawaii flights depends on gaining
FAA extended range operations (ETOPS)
approval for its Boeing 737-8s, and it was
in the final stages of the certification process when the shutdown started.
At airports, there were varying reports
of longer security queues as it appeared
that screeners at some locations were
filing higher-than-normal sick days.
Mineta San Jose International Airport ,
for example, said its screener-absentee
rate had gone from 3% to 14% during the
United said it was seeing "pockets
of staff issues around the system," but
nothing to cause major delays.
atwonline.com | February 2019 | ATW 7
IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac warned airlines still
do not know exactly what kind of Brexit they should
be planning for.