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Brexit May Leave UK Residents Without Flight Rights

Brexit May Leave UK Residents Without Flight Rights
Jennifer Billock

An unintended consequence may hit air travelers due to Brexit: a lack of flight rights for consumers.

Currently, air travelers from the European Union are afforded a certain set of rights, but once Brexit kicks in, travelers from the United Kingdom will potentially be excluded. That means that current laws applying to European Union citizens – including compensation owed to consumers if a flight is delayed or canceled or a customer is downgraded to a lower cabin – will no longer apply to U.K. residents.

An aviation deal for the post-Brexit world has not yet been reached, and airlines are working on contingency plans for what to do should any U.K. flights get grounded. Currently the airlines are updating their websites to note that no flight reservations are guaranteed, not just those to the EU, but also to 17 other countries like the U.S. With this new language, the flight cost for a cancelled flight would be refunded, but no other compensation would be available.

British Airways showed optimism toward an upcoming aviation deal with the government, saying in a statement reported by The Independent that “we’re confident that a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and the UK will be reached. It’s in the UK and Europe’s interest to have a fully liberalised aviation agreement. Nine hundred million travellers each year have benefited from open skies in Europe. That not only benefits customers but creates and helps to sustain jobs and wealth.”

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary was not so positive, though: “The worst case scenario is becoming more and more likely,” he told Sky News in August. “The onus is on the British government to deliver a deal. If there’s no deal by March ’19, Britain gets thrown out of the European Union, you’re out of open skies and there will be no flights.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (10)


  1. rjlon

    October 19, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Complete rubbish being spun by the likes of Mr O’Leary who was a political campaigner for the UK to stay in the EU even though he is an Irish citizen not resident in the UK. All current EU law is being incorporated into English, Scottish and N Irish law. Certain laws that no longer apply to a non member state will be amended by Parliament on a case by case basis. Indeed it is possible that an English Judiciary may be more minded to a pro consumer view than the EU which does seem pressured by Large European Corporations and Industry bodies.

  2. Guy Betsy

    October 19, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are not part of the EU but yet they are included (or have similar) laws as EU 261/2004 so Britain just needs to negotiate itself as part of this as well.

  3. TTL

    October 19, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Have luck with that thought! Self induced headache for all the greatbrittainers not so great for decades… UK parliament will have lots of amending to do. And many industries (e.g., medical) in the UK are in facing a catastrophe currently and even more so soon.

  4. emcampbe

    October 19, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Let’s not pretend this is ‘unintended’ – those campagning for Brexit very well knew that they wouldn’t have the same air passenger conveniences that they do as part of the EU. This is all part of any negotiation. I suppose its a possibility that they were too stupid to care, but that is their problem now.

    This will be solved, though hopefully they are not so stupid to think that they will necessarily get all they want out of it. With the U.K. no longer including in the EU, they should be treated just like any other non-EU country in terms of the terms they can get in an agreement. Sure, there is going to be incentives on both sides to get it done – there will still be a large travel market between the EU and UK. While London in particular will continue to be an important business hub, the UK has much more to lose, and they are in the weaker position of negotiation. They’ll have to give up something. They can’t ‘leave’ the EU, yet still expect to gain the same benefits as if they were still part of it.

  5. inet32

    October 19, 2017 at 9:46 am

    “Currently the airlines are updating their websites to note that no flight reservations are guaranteed, not just those to the EU, but also to 17 other countries like the U.S. With this new language, the flight cost for a cancelled flight would be refunded, but no other compensation would be available.”

    I’m unclear on what that means. Why would flights between the UK and US be affected? Does it work both ways? I.e., if UK citizens travelling to the US have lost certain protections and rights due to Brexit, have US travelers going to the UK also lost protections if they are flying on a British-flagged airline such as BA? What about Virgin? What about an EU airline flying, say, through LHR?

  6. amanx

    October 19, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Complete rubbish journalism.

  7. Sydneyberlin

    October 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Aaaah, let’s just sit back, relax and enjoy yet another chapter of this self-inflicted insanity to backfire on the Brits. I am sure, there’s yet much more to come and I am looking forward to enjoying this spectacle!

  8. Cymro

    October 20, 2017 at 5:58 am

    This isn’t about EU261 compensation per se, as Brexit would count as an “extraordinary circumstance.” However, it does seem as though the UK government is agreeing to allow airlines not to pay hotel costs, etc. as they currently would in the event of a weather event, for instance, by waiving the enforcement in connection with Brexit specifically.

    If Britain does leave without a deal, meaning no airlines are authorised to operate between the UK and Europe, or between the UK and any of hte countries where there is no independent national authorisation to operate (only EU to destination country authorisation, as is thecase with the UK) then British airlines would not be authorisd to operate the affected international routes. As such, flights couldn’t take off until the issue is resolved. The problem is not as simple as transcribing the authorisations, however, because Britain won’t accept ANY EU oversight, only a neutral or British arbiter (which doesn’t exist yet for this area, and many others, because until now there hasn’t been any need for one).

    EU261 will be incorporated into domestic law, at least initially, but that won’t matter if no planes are allowed to take off.

  9. FlyingNone

    October 23, 2017 at 3:34 am

    This is a good thing. Why are airlines paying for weather irrops – paying for thousands of people on any one given day for a delay or cancellation due to events beyond their control? The only time an airline should be paying hotel and food costs are during a mechanical delay or cancellation – like in the U.S. Stop giving the store away.

  10. Dhamal

    October 23, 2017 at 5:32 am

    Hmm London Heathrown and Gtawick.. will these airports close? no garbage journalism as it’s finest.

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