Aviation Safety After Brexit

Come, Fly With Me!

European Aviation Safety Agency

Do you look at whether flights are safe when booking your holidays? Let’s be honest, when you book your family holiday, the last thing you want to worry about is the safety of the flight you are taking. Have you considered who ensures that the flight is as safe as possible? 

EASA Does It

Before Brexit, it was the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which was responsible for the uniform level of safety of flights across Europe. They ensure that passengers profit from safer, cleaner and cheaper flights. For example, a trip from Paris to Milan for a family of four cost €1 600 in 1992 and can be as low as only €100 in 2017.

Of course, the damage flying causes to the climate will make such cheap flights unsustainable in the long run. The cost of flights might have to change and greener ways of propelling planes will have to be found. However, an agency supervising the safety of flights will not become less important.

We’ll Do It Our Way

When the UK left the EU with a very meagre deal, it left many European Agencies, including the EASA. Experts feared that many flights would be grounded until new arrangements could be negotiated to replace current agreements with the EASA which is responsible for certificates needed for proof of airworthiness. 

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority website now states that the UK is no longer part of EU aviation institutions, including the EASA. Moreover, worryingly there is no comprehensive bilateral agreement on aviation safety between the UK and the EU.

The Centre for Aviation CAPA web site explains: 

“However, the UK-EU trade agreement includes a section on aviation safety and emphasises the aim of close cooperation in this area.

“This is based on mutual recognition of licences, with each party accepting findings of compliance and certificates issued by the other’s competent authorities. However, acceptance obligations can be suspended after consultation if the other party violates its obligations and fails to take corrective action.”

We Must Keep In Touch

Both sides have agreed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) to keep each other informed of any proposed changes to safety laws and standards. They are to give the other the opportunity to consider suggested changes.

Both sides also agree to provide assistance to one another on threats to security of civil aviation, and to conform with safety standards.

 According to CAPA

 “They broadly maintain the status quo in other areas…

Other topics that appear to be aimed at maintaining something close to the status quo include:

  • the transparent and non-discriminatory allocation of airport slots;
  • non-discriminatory application of infrastructure user charges, which must be cost related;
  • cooperation on air navigation services; and
  • the permitting of self-handling by airlines in the other party’s territory.

…and aim for a “high level of consumer protection”

There is also a shared objective to achieve a “high level of consumer protection” and cooperation to that effect.

There are only sparse details to back this up, but there are references to measures that include assistance for persons with disabilities, and reimbursement and compensation in case of denied boarding, cancellation or delays.”

To Pay, Or Not To Pay?

Should  UK airlines attempt to diverge from the requirements of EU261 on passenger compensation, by which they are no longer bound,  EU airlines are sure to cry foul, as they will argue that this departs from the shared objective.

In general, the aviation part of the UK-EU trade agreement does a good job in maintaining as much liberalisation as possible.

CAPA explains:

“Almost all traffic rights are retained, helped by allowing UK airlines to be EU-owned, and mutual recognition of safety standards helps to ease the separation of regulation in this area.

“However, the need for some EU airlines to disenfranchise or block non-EU shareholders is an unfortunate negative consequence of the lack of full reciprocity on ownership and control. It reduces the appeal to investors holding shares in these companies at a time when the airline industry cannot afford to limit access to capital.”

The parties’ commitment to cooperation on mutual recognition of safety has yet to be tested over time. For example, with consumer protection the UK might decide to diverge in the future.

 For now the two sides have avoided the scenario of aviation traffic rights ceasing, which could have led to the grounding of flights between the UK and EU.

They have also ensured that airlines and passengers currently notice hardly any change in aviation operations as a result of Brexit.

“But compared with the situation where the UK was a member of the European single market, the new agreement represents an unprecedented reversal of liberalisation in aviation. There are wrinkles to be ironed out on the subject of airline ownership and control, causing some airlines to go through unnecessary contortions, and there is at least some risk of divergence over time in areas such as aviation safety and consumer protection.

“Nevertheless, compared with old-style bilateral agreements – and certainly compared with the threat of ‘no deal’ – it is still a pretty liberal agreement that preserves the regulatory status quo as much as possible without actually keeping the UK in Europe’s single aviation market. The main impact is likely to be felt indirectly through Brexit’s economic impact.”

CAPA

“Trus-s-st In Me!”

That is, if one can trust the current UK government to comply with international agreements. A government which is planning to bring in the Nationality and Immigration Bill which contravenes the UN 1951 Convention on Refugees of which the UK is a signatory. A government which is now contemplating dropping the long-promised animal welfare plans to ban imports of fur and foie gras.

How do we know that safety measures and consumer protections which are considered costly to some Tory-owned businesses won’t simply be dropped? Does this government have a good record in their duty of care to ordinary people of this country? I for one would feel a lot safer if EU regulations were still looking after my and my family’s safety on flights.