Brexit and the Near-Term Impact on Non-Scheduled Commercial Travel


On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom made history as it formally withdrew from the European Union. While British small businesses and trading partners had been anxiously awaiting the result since the original referendum in June of 2016, few have noted the potential impact to travel to and from the UK. 

As part of the European Union, commercial travel has been governed under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA for short. While the UK has entered a transition period for commercial travel that will last until the end of 2020, it will be important to carefully review any major changes that may impact non-scheduled commercial operators after this date. 

Freedoms of Flight

While the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority plans to hold ongoing workshops to gather feedback, one likely sticking point in negotiations with the European Union will be the air freedoms of flight. These nine “freedoms” provide guidance on where airlines and aircraft operators alike can fly to and from. 

For example, the first freedom is fairly straight forward: the freedom to overfly a foreign country when en-route to another country. This is essential in Europe, given that many countries are located within close proximity and allows for ease of travel. 

Meanwhile, the sixth freedom includes the right to fly from one foreign country to another, with only a short stop in one’s own country. For a non-scheduled commercial operator based in the UK this is critically important as it allows it to operate flights from countries all across Europe such as Germany, Italy, Spain and more, all with only making a short stop in the UK.

 If the UK is unable to negotiate up to this freedom, it may mean that operators will not be able to engage in cabotage, or flights with continuation in foreign countries.

Landing Permits

As negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU are expected to be finalized by the end of the year, it is now known that non-scheduled commercial aircraft operators will soon have to obtain an individual Third Country Operator approval from each country they travel to once the transition period has ended. These flight permit approvals will enable the operator to apply for the applicable Third Country Operator permits as required by the individual countries they wish to operate to.

This creates a potential headache for some businesses and frequent business travelers, as the chances of putting together a last-minute charter aircraft from the UK to an EU country become slimmer. 

With an estimated two-day lead time for approvals from the UK alone, it will be important for travel departments to stay ahead of the curve on any potential upcoming travel as well as leverage flight support companies to provide guidance before travel takes place. 

While Boris Johnson and the UK government begin preparations for a summit with the EU this summer, non-scheduled commercial aircraft operators should continue to stay informed on proposed changes and their potential impact to travel.