UK-EU Permit Talks Continue Ahead Of March 31 Deadline
LONDON—Holders of Italian and French AOCs (Air Operator Certificates) may find themselves with a competitive edge over operators based in other EU nations beginning April 1, as the European business aviation market reaches its first significant regulatory deadline of the post-Brexit era.
A deal was agreed to between the UK and the European Union (EU) on Dec. 24, and the UK’s formal exit from the bloc came at the end of last year. Since then, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been issuing block permits to EU aircraft operators wishing to make ad hoc flights into the UK. These permits enable applicants—once registered with the CAA as third-country operators—to make multiple flights, provided aircraft are under 10,000-kg maximum takeoff weight (22,046 lb.), without having to apply for additional permits specific to each and every movement.
All block permits issued so far this year by the CAA expire on March 31. The authority’s intention had been that this initial three-month period would be used to conduct bilateral negotiations and seek reciprocity from equivalent regulators among the 27 EU nations, with block permits beyond March 31 being issued to countries whose regulators are willing to offer similar authorizations to British aircraft operators.
According to advice published by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) on March 22, reciprocal arrangements have been agreed to between the UK CAA and just two EU nations—France and Italy. French and Italian operators can therefore apply to extend existing block permits or apply for new ones beginning April 1. Operators based in the other EU nations—and UK operators wishing to fly between the UK and any of the other 25 countries—will have to apply for separate permits for every flight.
This could lead to a situation in which, for instance, a German operator would be required to apply for a permit to fly from Stuttgart to London, while a French AOC holder with a CAA block permit and an aircraft based in Strasbourg, France, 71 mi. away, could operate the flight under a block permit without having to apply for any additional authorization.
The Weekly of Business Aviation understands that, since March 22, more nations have signed up to similar terms, though details have not yet been published. Negotiations with further nations continue—including with Malta, where a number of UK operators have established subsidiaries to circumvent post-Brexit restrictions on intra-EU flying.