The aviation sector has been of crucial importance throughout the Brexit debate. Britain has an incredibly strong and active aviation sector that stands to be impacted by the changes that Brexit will bring. However, it is essential that we utilise Brexit as an opportunity to make legislation our own; future-proof the industry, provide it with the tools to prosper and fix issues within EU legislation.
In a document released on Saturday, the government has outlined what it views as the next steps in securing a functioning aviation sector Post-Brexit. Beyond the Horizon: The Future of UK Aviation, is the government’s first draft plan for the industry and is heavily focused on improving transparency for customers, sustainable growth and trade. It is the government’s first effort at stamping its own authority on EU legislation and protecting both the industry and British consumers.
British passengers example, will be been given stronger rights flying from the UK than from EU airports after Brexit.
Current European passengers’ rights rules, known as EC261/2004, stipulate high pay-outs for delays and cancellations that cannot be attributed to “extraordinary circumstances”. Passengers on the shortest flights from EU airports who arrive at least three hours late are entitled to €250 (£220). For journeys between 1,500km and 3,500km, the same delay triggers €400 in compensation. And for long-haul flights that arrive four hours or more late, passengers can claim €600.
However, proposals being discussed in Brussels would dramatically reduce passengers’ entitlements and the costs to airlines: halving payments for delays of under five hours for short flights, and increasing the threshold for mid-haul and long-haul flights to nine and 12 hours respectively.
But the British government says “the UK will not fall below current standards of protection when we leave the EU.”
The document also outlines how the government will work with industry to ensure all passengers have a “dignified and comfortable” travelling experience, including ways to improve accessibility at airports and on aircraft and tackling the issue of disruptive passengers.
The British consumer is at the heart of these new reforms.
Embedded in the strategy is the push for the British aviation sector to become a world leader in environmental sustainability. For example, the report outlined a plan to work directly alongside the industry on issues such as single use plastics and improved recycling rates.
On a larger scale, there are also ambitious plans to make Britain’s aviation sector the world’s greenest. This includes proposals to tackle issues around noise, greenhouse gas emissions and airspace congestion. The Government will now look to introduce new noise targets, strengthened noise controls at airports and improved compensation for people living near airports.
Aircrafts themselves, will need to become quieter and more fuel efficient and there will be a renewed focus on the emergence of electric and hybrid technology.
The routes aircrafts fly will also become more strategic with a renewed focus on trading partners.
The strategy will examine the agreements the UK has with other countries to operate flights, identify opportunities to improve connectivity and open up new routes for overseas investment.
The government will also review the allocation of airport landing slots to ensure the process is fair, transparent and fosters a competitive market place which benefits consumers by offering more choice.
In charge of this new strategy, is Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg who said that:
“Our world class aviation industry has a proud and accomplished history, from pioneering the first international routes to championing consumer choice…Working with industry, we want to improve the flying experience from booking to arrival, ensuring passengers are truly at the heart of the aviation sector. This demonstrates our commitment to creating a transport system which works for passengers as we build a Britain fit for the future.”
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade reinforced the importance of this strategy:
“The strategy is an opportunity to recognise the value and importance of aviation to the UK – in particular in a post-Brexit world – and identify how government and industry can work together to meet rising passenger and freight demand, whilst continuing to deliver for the consumer.”
Alderslade could not be more correct. Britain must view Brexit as a way to become a world leader in this space, we must reject the poorer elements of policy from the European Union and stamp our own authority on legislation. We should have Britain, not Europe, at the centre of each piece of legislation and this is a crucial first step.
The final aviation strategy is due for publication in early 2019 following consultations in the sector.