Belfast Telegraph

EasyJet applies for operator's certificate in Austria in post-Brexit plan

EasyJet has applied for a new air operator's certificate (AOC) in Austria to allow it to continue flying in the European Union after Brexit.

The carrier said the accreditation process is "well advanced" and it hopes to receive the AOC "in the near future".

It will allow the company to continue to operate flights across Europe and domestically within Europe after the UK withdraws from the EU.

EasyJet, which currently has airlines based in the UK and Switzerland, will establish a third, easyJet Europe, headquartered in Vienna.

A spokeswoman said "nothing will change" from the perspective of passengers, and all the people and planes that will fly for easyJet Europe are already employed and based in the remaining 27 EU countries.

EasyJet previously insisted it would not reveal the location of its new £10 million AOC until the application was granted, but it made the announcement after it became clear the information would emerge as it has to update its safety systems and processes as part of the approval process.

It chose Austria because of the country's "rigorous approach to safety" and ability to take on a large number of aircraft.

The single market for aviation, created in the 1990s, means there are no commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU.

UK ministers say maintaining "liberal access" to European aviation markets will be a "top priority" during Brexit negotiations.

Under the new structure, the three easyJet airlines will be owned by easyJet plc, which will be EU-owned and controlled, listed on the London Stock Exchange and based in the UK.

But the change will not protect the company if an agreement cannot be reached to enable flights between the UK and the EU to continue.

An easyJet spokeswoman said: "Given the importance of aviation to all the economies of Europe as an enabler of trade, tourism and travel, we think it is important that the aviation market remains as open and competitive as possible.

"EasyJet will continue to push for the EU and UK to reach an aviation agreement which at a minimum will enable flights between the UK and EU."

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokeswoman told a Westminster briefing the matter is a "commercial decision" for the airline.

She said: "In any deal that we want to strike with the EU we want to make sure that it's a good deal for everyone, including businesses that operate here."

The establishment of easyJet Europe will create a number of new jobs in Austria but no jobs will move from the UK.

Current rules state that airlines operating within the EU must be majority-owned by EU nationals.

EasyJet said it is confident it will remain majority EU-owned after Brexit as founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his family - who hold Cypriot passports - have 33% of shares.

Around 30% of easyJet passengers are flying on routes between and within the EU27, not touching the UK.

Aviation consultant John Strickland said: "With the conclusion of the AOC process in Austria, easyJet will secure its rights to operate intra-EU flights in a post-Brexit world.

"These are a strategically important and sizeable component of their business."

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