Brexit is here: What’s the impact to ops?

By Rebecca Lougheed




The UK officially left the EU on Jan 1st, 2021. Although it’s still a part of Europe (the continent), it’s no longer part of the European Union (the trade and political bit). Whereas before, the UK fell under EASA and all their rules and regulations, the UK CAA is now in charge of all things aviation in the UK…

So, what does that mean?

It means a raft of changes to the rules for operators flying between the UK and EU states. A new agreement has been drafted which applies from Jan 1. Here are the main changes:

  • Essentially UK operators will no longer be considered as EU carriers, and will instead be ‘third country’ carriers, meaning they will lose their special treatment. Flights between the UK and EU will continue, but passenger cabotage flights will no longer be allowed. Or in more human terms, UK operators will not be able to carry fare paying pax between two EU states (and vice versa). Cargo cabotage will still be okay as long as the two countries involved have an agreement.
  • Both sides will still have the right to overfly each other’s territory, make technical stops, and to operate third- and fourth-freedom passenger and cargo flights between any point in the UK and any point in the EU. The fifth-freedom rights beyond the EU will continue, but only for a five-month period and with a new capacity cap.
  • UK and EU airlines can also continue codesharing, and UK airlines can continue providing wet-leasing operations.
  • There are other changes coming too, which EBAA cover here.

All the freedoms

But what about laws, licences, rules and regulations?

All existing EASA certs, approvals and licences valid for UK registered aircraft will be good for another two years. For UK operators of EU-registered aircraft things are more complicated. The UK CAA have set up a useful website to help you get your head around what you need to do to stay compliant elsewhere in Europe, and it’s a great place to start. There is also a helpful flow chart to keep things simple.

With Brexit complete, the UK CAA is now in charge of setting the rules, but they’ve basically said that they’ll be sticking to pretty much all of the aviation law, rights and obligations that were in place before. You can read that statement, and a bit more, on the UK CAA’s main regulations site.

The heads-up for passengers

Things may get complicated. UK citizens will likely lose their special EU travel privileges which means it may become harder to move around Europe thanks to everyone’s favourite elephant in the room, Covid.

As a general rule, pax from the UK to Europe will need to make sure their passport has at least six months validity in it if they want to visit any EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. They will also need to check their health cover – the EHICs (European Health Insurance Cards) are still valid if issued before January 1.

If they are entering as a tourist, they can stay for 90 days – and they can do that twice a year. But if they are entering for business purposes, they might need a visa.

All of this is on the UK Gov website if you want to take a look.

The Question of Covid

Not being part of the EU anymore means that flights from the UK to the EU will no longer have the same Covid entry restrictions applied. “Luckily” no-one was really letting UK flights in anyway, what with their virus mutation running rampant, so right now, any change for flights originating in the UK (and passengers for that matter) is not really relevant.

The entry rules for UK nationals in the rest of Europe are changing fast, and every country is different but in most cases it will be harder for UK travellers to avoid Covid related rules for non-essential travel. Don’t know where to start? We don’t blame you. The best place is the UK FCO website which has the most up to date entry requirements for UK nationals for every country around the world.

CO2 much?

One extra little snippet of info to know about Brexit is that the amount of emissions small, non-commercial operators can produce as “improved”. If you already have an EU-ETS (emissions trading scheme) exemption then your allowance has now been doubled.

Instead of 1,000t CO2, you can now produce 2,000t CO2 – half in the EU and half in the UK. 

Don’t think you can get away with puffing about and no-one watching though. The UK are setting up their own scheme, and France will be monitoring the EU bit of it (apparently they won the task because UK operators tend to spend more time there than anywhere else in Europe).

If you are trying to work out what 1,000t of CO2 coming out your aircraft looks like, then there is a handy calculator you can use (but its roughly 103,400 gallons or 391,500 litres of JET A1 burned).

The news for N-reg’ers

Well, to be honest, not a lot at this point. The main thing to know is that the UK no longer falls under EU (EASA) rules and law, so if you have any problems you’ll now be dealing direct with the UK CAA… but currently their laws aren’t actually any different to what they were at the end of December.

If you are carrying passengers from Europe to the UK (or vice versa) then there will be different passport and entry procedures for them now.

That’s about it.

So, the really important bit… can you bring food?

Always one of the big questions for crew who want to stock up on all things delicious. Basically, no meat, milk, or dairy stuff into the EU from the UK. The UK is a bit more chilled, but you do need to declare things, and a suitcase filled with Camembert and wine probably won’t go down very well.

Of course, the real good news is all those juicy duty free goods which travellers between the UK and EU will now be able to buy!

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Rebecca Lougheed

Rebecca Lougheed

I am an OPSGROUP team member, an A380 pilot, and interested in all things flight ops! Based near an undisclosed airfield in England. Question for us? Write to blog.team@ops.group.

One Comment

  • Justin Serbent says:

    BREXIT is making Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS) more generous for smaller non-commercial operators! The UK will set up it’s own ETS in addition to the EU-ETS. What this means is that if you have Exempt non-Commercial status with the EU-ETS you will now be able to produce 2,000t CO2 bouncing around Europe with out having to report or establish a holding account. You will get to produce up to 1,000t CO2 for UK operations and produce another 1,000t CO2 for the rest of Europe and keep your Exempt non-Commercial status. Twice the fun by doing nothing!

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