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Published on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

IATA warns deadline for post-Brexit aviation deal is just 11 months away

IATA has urged the UK Government to forge ahead with a 'cost-effective' expansion of Heathrow and negotiate an early post-Brexit aviation deal.

In an address to the UK Aviation Club, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac warned that Britain had no choice but to reach an air service deal with the rest of Europe.

"When the UK leaves the European Single Market, it will also leave the European Common Aviation Area. And when it breaks from the European Union, all traffic rights to the rest of the world associated with Europe will also be thrown into question," he said.

"The basis of international aviation is bilateral air services agreements. There is no World Trade Organisation agreement to fall back on. For that reason, I don't see any alternative to a negotiated agreement."

He urged an early resolution for aviation in the Brexit discussions. "Time is precious. The Brexit clock is ticking towards a deadline of March 2019. But the aviation deadline is earlier.

"Normally passengers can book travel about a year in advance. At a minimum, the flight schedules and seat and cargo inventories must be available at least six months in advance. So that puts the airlines' deadline at October 2018—just 11 months from now," said de Juniac.

"My message to all involved is threefold: Get started. Don't step backward—people will not accept anything that turns back the clock on the achievements of the EU Common Aviation Area. And, lastly, don't underestimate the amount of work ahead as there are intense political and commercial interests at stake."

He said other issues facing the UK including finding enough staff and upgrading systems to cope with a potential explosion in customer transactions from 4.6 million a month to 21 million due to growth in air travel, irrespective of Brexit.

Also, the UK needs to develop immigrations solutions to deal with the millions of travellers between the UK and Europe should border control procedures become more cumbersome. It also needs to define the relationship between the UK to the European Aviation Safety Agency.

"The pressure is mounting, with passenger numbers predicted to grow irrespective of Brexit," added de Juniac. "Solutions need to be found quickly to ensure a smooth transition. With the amount of work that needs to be done, there are good arguments to put transition agreements in place."

He also urged the government to address 'severe capacity constraints' in the southeast by expanding Heathrow.

"Heathrow is where expansion should take place. I know the struggle to build a third runway has meant decades of frustration. But the UK will be left behind in the globally connected world if it does not come to a final decision and implement it," he added.

"Expanding Heathrow is about building prosperity. It should be a priority for the UK. And facing the post-Brexit world makes it even more urgent," said de Juniac.

However, he said Heathrow should not be expanded 'at any cost'.
"The original estimates of £17 billion were completely unacceptable. Heathrow Airport's recently announced intention to reduce that cost is a step in the right direction.

Heathrow is already the most expensive airport in the world from which to operate. It is essential that Heathrow's charges do not rise from today's levels. The construction of the third runway must enhance Heathrow's competitiveness, not destroy it."

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