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.”