As the UK prepares to depart from the European Union, British carriers are attaching caveats to the terms of carriage for any future flights that might not be covered by the agreements now in place.
Airlines in the UK are already selling tickets for flights that are scheduled to depart long after current European Union (EU) agreements are no longer in place. Although Great Britain has set a target to exit the EU, replacements for open skies agreements negotiated through the EU have not yet been reached. British carriers, most notably Manchester Airport (MAN)-based Thomas Cook Airlines, have quietly started to add language to their terms of carriage warning passengers that post-Brexit flights might not take place at all if new agreements are not reached and making clear that should this become the case, customers can expect refunds but will not be entitled to any additional compensation.
“We are selling holidays for the post-Brexit world, so we are preparing the business to operate in that environment,” a Thomas Cook spokesperson told The London Times. “We do expect some form of agreement on aviation but we now need urgent clarity from Government.”
Meanwhile, the UK’s largest airline group is taking more of a wait-and-see position when it comes to post-Brexit bookings. “We’re confident that a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and the UK will be reached,” British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG) told The Sun in a statement. “It’s in the UK and Europe’s interest to have a fully liberalized aviation agreement.”
London Luton Airport (LTN)-based EasyJet seemed to echo its competitor’s sentiments. “Consumers, airlines and politicians across the UK and Europe want flights between the UK and EU to continue after Brexit,” a company spokesperson told the newspaper. “We plan to put seats on sale for April 2019 in September 2018 by which time we hope that there will be agreement that will enable flights to continue.”
At least one government official has, however, expressed a decidedly less optimistic view of the chances for a timely agreement.
“It is theoretically conceivable that in a no deal scenario there will be no air traffic moving between the UK and the European Union on the 29th March 2019, but I don’t think anybody seriously believes that that is where we will get to,” Chancellor Philip Hammond told members of Parliament this week according to The Telegraph. “There is a range of outcomes and what we will need to do at a point in time is determine what is a realistic worst case scenario that we need to plan for and invest for.”
Some airlines are already taking advantage of the fine print to help plan for just such a realistic worst-case scenario.