If no deal for leaving the EU is agreed between the EU and the UK, Airline Operating Licence and Air Operator’s Certificates (AOC) holders operating in and out of the UK would need to take action to ensure they can continue to operate aircraft as they currently do. This page sets out areas that you need to consider to prepare for such an eventuality. Note that individual circumstances would vary and are a matter for each business and individual to consider.  You may need to discuss your individual circumstances with us directly.

Would my company’s Operating Licence remain valid?

Yes. This licence is issued by the UK CAA and would remain in force provided the holder continues to meet the relevant grant criteria. Note that the basis on which ownership and control is governed would change (see below).

Depending on the EU withdrawal negotiations, the holder of an Operating Licence would no longer hold traffic rights allowing flights between EU27 or EEA Member States which did not either originate or end in the UK.


Would my Route Licence remain valid?

If you already hold a Route Licence this would remain in force provided you continue to qualify for an Operating Licence.


Would my UK AOC remain valid?

As of the withdrawal date, an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) issued to airlines by the UK CAA would remain valid for air services from the UK. UK issued AOCs may continue to display EASA references beyond the EU exit date.

We do not anticipate any additional action required for UK airlines operating in and out of the UK with a UK CAA-issued AOC.

If you currently rely on more extensive freedoms, such as flying within EU 27 member states, we recommend you speak to the CAA’s Airline Licensing team as soon as possible.


Would we be considered third country operators?

Once the UK has left the EU, airlines with UK AOC’s would be considered ‘third country’ operators (TCOs) within the meaning of Article 4(1)(d) of the Basic Regulation (Article 1b(ii) in Basic Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 (“New Basic”)) and other EU legislation on aviation safety.

TCOs require a safety authorisation from EASA in accordance with Articles 9 and 23of the Basic Regulation (Section VIII of the New Basic Regulation) to operate in the EU.

There is an outstanding question as to whether EASA would allow applications for TCO status from airlines within an existing EU Member State before 29th March 2019.

The CAA has not been able to enter direct conversations with EASA about how it intends to ensure continuity of service. Therefore, airlines should as soon as possible contact EASA to understand what actions they can take to seek TCO status and the relevant safety authorisation before the UK formally withdraws.


Would we retain the same levels of market access?

UK carriers would no longer automatically have access to traffic rights under the EU’s air service agreements with other states. This would include the Air Service Agreements with Canada and the United States.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is negotiating air service agreements and advising on contingencies in case they are not agreed before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Further information can be sought from the Technology and International Aviation Team at DfT.


Would the ownership and control requirements of UK airlines be affected?

The way the legal and regulatory framework for ownership and control is being transposed into UK law means that the requirement to be majority-owned and effectively controlled by EU nationals would change, since that definition would no longer apply to UK nationals. Going forward nationality restrictions would no longer be part of the Operating Licence but would be governed through a Route Licence.

UK carriers which currently undertake air services between the UK and third countries outside the EEA already hold such a licence. For others this would be a new mandatory requirement. The CAA has written to all UK Operating Licence holders to explain this, and the process for obtaining one if not currently held. Should carriers not meet the UK nationality test, then the Secretary of State has the power to grant or approve the retention of such a licence.

All previously issued Operating and Route Licences would remain valid, including circumstances where an existing licence holder is currently majority owned or effectively controlled by qualifying EEA, as opposed to UK, nationals under the current regulations.

Carriers that currently do not have a Route Licence would need to apply for one to the CAA. The process for doing so has been set out in a recent letter from the CAA to all existing licence holders.


Would the ownership and control requirements of EU airlines be affected?

To obtain and keep an EU 27 operating licence and benefit from the intra-EU air traffic rights, air carriers must comply at all times with the conditions under Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 on air services.

The conditions include the need to be majority owned and effectively controlled by EU Member States and/or nationals of EU Member States. If these conditions are no longer fulfilled because of the UK leaving EU, the Operating Licence at issue would no longer be valid.

Please contact CAA’s Airline Licensing Team for further information.


Would the arrangements for wet-leasing aircraft outside the UK remain the same?

The legislation translating EU law into UK law under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 intends to provide continuity for approving wet-leases of aircraft from the EU and from the rest of the world. No action is required.


Would the arrangements for EU airlines wishing to wet-lease UK aircraft remain the same?

Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 on air services concerning the use of ‘third country’ registered aircraft means EU aircraft operators intending to wet-lease aircraft registered in the United Kingdom would be bound by the corresponding provisions relating to such aircraft.

Airlines should consider the impact of this change on their operations. Please contact CAA’s Airline Licensing Team for further advice.


Would other UK CAA Flight Operations permissions, approvals, variations and exemptions continue to be recognised?

All permissions, approvals, variations and exemptions (PAVEs) issued prior to withdrawing from the EU would continue to be recognised by the UK within the scope and terms of their issue. According to the European Commission’s current, publicly-declared position, CAA-issued PAVEs would no longer be recognised by EU member states, however they would retain validity under UK law.

Entities with a UK-issued PAVE seeking to conduct activities within the scope/terms of their PAVE within an EU member state should contact EASA as soon as possible or the appropriate competent authority to understand the requirements of that specific state.


Would security search arrangements remain the same?

In a non-negotiated withdrawal, aircraft arriving into an EU airport from the UK may be subject to an aircraft security search.

Passengers (and their cabin baggage) and hold baggage of an in-bound flight from the UK may be subject to security screening where transferring onto a connecting flight in an EU airport, unless the EU recognises the UK as applying equivalent security controls.

Airlines should contact the European Commission as soon as possible to discuss the specific consequences for their operations and potential mitigations.


Would security arrangements for cargo and mail remain the same?

Air carriers transporting cargo or mail from a UK airport to the EU, and their supply chains, would have to be designated by the appropriate authority of an EU-27 Member State as a third country ACC3.

Supply chain entities approved in the UK as Known Consignors or Regulated Agents would no longer be recognised in the EU, but would continue to be recognised in the UK.

The UK would continue to recognise existing ACC3 designations and the validated secure supply chains for the purposes of inbound cargo to the UK.

Airlines should contact the European Commission as soon as possible to discuss the specific consequences on their operations into the EU and potential mitigations.


Would the requirements for consumer information remain the same?

Once the UK has left the EU airlines would be required to meet their existing obligations under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and the ATOL regulations.

Airlines should consider how to best ensure that customers are aware of their rights when buying flight tickets and holidays and how to pursue them if services are interrupted.