Friday 23 February 2018

'Impossible' to stop Brexit chaos - Lufthansa chief

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Richard Weiss and John Mulligan

It will be "virtually impossible" for the UK to reach an agreement with the European Union in time to avoid disruption to flights across the trading bloc once it leaves the EU in two years' time, the CEO of Lufthansa was warned.

Such a scenario could play havoc with air transport between the UK and Ireland post-Brexit until an agreement is hammered out.

Aer Lingus, Ryanair, CityJet and British Airways operate flights on one of the world's busiest international city pairs: Dublin-London.

According to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, 4.77 million passengers travelled between Dublin and airports in London in 2016.

Last year, the Dublin-Heathrow route saw 1.75 million passengers travel between the airports.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, pictured, expects France and Germany to take a hard line against the UK aviation industry in Brexit negotiations, threatening to disrupt flight connections across Europe.

"Brexit means Brexit - our industry won't be exempt," said Mr Spohr, who has accompanied Chancellor Angela Merkel on state visits and discussed the matter with German, French and EU officials.

"The basic approach is for every industry to say 'hey, let's pretend that nothing has happened'. That's something the governments, and also the EU Commission, won't go along with. You can be sure about that from what I hear," he said.

EU airlines currently have unfettered access to airports within the bloc under the Single European Sky treaty. Deregulation of the EU aviation market gave rise to the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet, and a host of other carriers that now criss-cross Europe.

But Brexit could upend the market, with the UK an important destination for many airlines in Europe. UK-based Easyjet is already in the process of securing an air operator's certificate in another EU country to enable it to continue flying in the EU under the open skies treaty once Brexit is finalised.

Ryanair has previously indicated it might ditch a small number of services it operates within the UK's borders once Brexit happens.

Mr Spohr said there'll be a transition period post-Brexit, with likely disruptions as the sector adjusts to new rules.

A German transport ministry representative recently said that Britain would likely lose its membership in the Single European Sky agreement, and that a new deal would need to be negotiated.

Mr Spohr is expecting Ms Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to oppose special treatment for the airline industry in Brexit talks. Airports body ACI Europe has pointed out that Ireland is the EU member most exposed to the UK for air traffic. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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