If you’re worried about traveling into or out of the UK in a post-Brexit world — you’re not alone.
For the most part, however, post-Brexit air travel won’t be a catastrophic event, complete with stranded travelers and grounded planes in every corner of the world. Realistically, travel in and out of Great Britain will remain much the same before and after Brexit. Travelers shouldn’t expect hang-ups or other assorted issues during flights. However, the necessary paperwork needed, and the bureaucracy of UK flights may be changing behind closed doors.
After all, there’s a lot of interest in keeping UK flights in the air because, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), four-fifths of all North Atlantic flights pass through UK airspace. Furthermore, about 12 percent of Americans traveling to the European continent use the UK as a springboard into the rest of Europe. To make things more complicated, millions of Britons and Europeans are reconsidering their EU travel plans this busy holiday season.
One particular concern for Brexit air travel is the issue of international travel agreements and how each nation has the right to negotiate and consent to incoming and outgoing air travel with other nations. Under EU law, these travel agreements aren’t required among member-states — the EU governs those. Any agreements with non-EU nations can be negotiated on behalf of all its members by the EU itself.
With Brexit, however, the UK will be forced to negotiate so-called operating licenses with each international destination. That sounds like a daunting task, but it’s exactly what every non-EU country must do to ensure safe travel with other international governments and entities.
Brexit Travel Impact
Even if Brexit hits tomorrow, preexisting agreements between the EU and the UK already allow for what’s known as “basic connectivity.” This agreement ensures international travel into and out of the UK to or from EU countries for a full 12 months following a Brexit deal.
Even so, some airlines are already prepping for post-Brexit air travel due to EU rules that require airlines that operate in or between EU member states to be majority-owned by locals. For Iberia, a Spanish-based, but British-owned airline controlled by the International Airline Group, management is already changing their structure that would allow them to fly domestically in their home base of Spain.
Brexit Air Travel – UK Domestic Flights
Because the EU governs travel only between EU-member-states, most domestic flights — meaning flights between UK cities — should not be impacted, regardless of the final Brexit agreement. Indeed, while EU rules may bar British-owned airlines from operating in the EU with a no-deal Brexit, Britain has no such policy. Due to this, any airlines that currently fly in the country will be able to continue to do so post-Brexit.
Brexit Air Travel – EU Flights
For EU flights coming into and flying out of the UK, not much is expected to change in the immediate future due to the passing of the “Contingency Action Plan” before Brexit’s March deadline earlier this year. The plan ensures that flights into and out of the UK to EU member states remain uninterrupted, at least for a while until a more formal agreement can be made. This grace period, which lasts for the better part of a year, should give both UK and EU regulators enough time to draft a new agreement. The push will certainly keep planes in the air the morning after a Brexit agreement.
Brexit Air Travel – International Flights
For non-EU international flights, interim agreements will also keep travelers moving and flights in the air post-Brexit. The same Contingency Action Plan that governs the short-term of UK-EU travel also applies to agreements the EU has reached with other countries — a sort of grandfathered-in policy that will help facilitate travel between the UK and the rest of the world. Additionally, the UK already has over 100 separate agreements with countries across the world.
Brexit Air Travel Tips
While fears over Brexit air travel seem to be largely overblown, there are some legitimate concerns for any traveler heading into or out of the country this holiday season.
First and foremost, travelers should ensure that they have the proper paperwork and visas well prior to their travel dates. This is particularly necessary if Brexit passes and non-EU-based documentation is required. While laws and regulations should keep planes in the air regardless of a Brexit deal, airlines, airports and border authorities all have different requirements and interest. This is why ensuring all your documentation is in order will help facilitate smooth and seamless travel. That said, EU regulations do allow visa-less travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, though students and business travelers may need some kind of permit or visa.
Another important piece for EU travelers to keep in mind is travel insurance, which may not be covered in the UK post-Brexit, particularly concerning EU-based healthcare.
Lastly, due to anticipated difficulty exchanging funds post-Brexit, travelers are also encouraged to exchange their currency prior to any trip.
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