Flying after Brexit – What you need to know

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(Featured image: An Air Europa plane is pushed back from its stand at Zurich Airport, November 2019)

In the first of a two-part blog series (the other looking at rail), I’m going to very briefly summarise what changes from a passenger’s perspective, now we’re virtually guaranteed to start the process of leaving the EU on 31st January – with a Withdrawal Agreement in place – following Thursday’s General Election result.

Transition Period – 31st January until at least December 2020

The key takeaway for air travellers is that during this period, nothing will change. During the transition period, all EU laws still apply so passengers from the UK will still be able to enter the EU (and vice versa) just as they do now, including use of the EHIC health insurance scheme and use of e-passport gates.

After Transition Period ends

Details after the transition period ends are still a bit vague, as it depends on the exact particulars of any deal as to how it’ll affect air travel. But there are a few elements I can reliably predict at this stage:

  • First and foremost, air travel won’t be grounded – a myth I’ve seen circulating on social media. There is already legislation in place on both the UK and EU sides to ensure planes can stay flying, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period.
  • UK citizens travelling to EU countries will likely need 6 months on their passport to visit the EU
  • Visits of less than 3 months for leisure or most business purposes won’t require a visa, but may need enrolment in the EU’s upcoming ETA travel authorisation scheme (similar to the USA’s ESTA).
  • The EHIC card scheme will no longer be in operation, so appropriate comprehensive travel insurance will be essential for European travel (it’s already a good idea anyway – but prices are likely to increase to be in line with other international destinations)
  • The situation regarding immigration controls (such as whether UK citizens will be able to continue using EU lines at Passport Control, or use e-gates) is still undecided – but in the event of a no-deal scenario UK travellers will have to enter the EU via, normally longer, non-EU lines.

It’s worth noting that Ireland is likely to be a special case – even after the transition period I’d expect frictionless travel by air from the UK due to the land border with Northern Ireland.

My other main prediction is around pricing – there are rumours that flight prices will increase following the end of the transition period, even if a deal is agreed. I too think this is likely to an extent due to increased charges to UK airlines which serve EU airports (by the airport’s host country), but the predicted increase has been widely overstated. We already set our own APD (Air Passenger Duty), separately to the EU, which is the main tax applicable to flights departing UK airports, so this won’t change – and we import a large percentage of our aviation fuel via Norway which is also not an EU country. As such, I’d be surprised if there was more than a 5-10% increase in EU flight costs to us as travellers.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about post-Brexit travel? Just let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer any questions!

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