EasyJet launches plans for post-Brexit base in Austria

Roland JACKSON
No-frills airline easyJet is taking off from Britain and setting up a Vienna-based division in response to Brexit (AFP Photo/PASCAL PAVANI)

No-frills airline easyJet is taking off from Britain and setting up a Vienna-based division in response to Brexit

No-frills airline easyJet is taking off from Britain and setting up a Vienna-based division in response to Brexit (AFP Photo/PASCAL PAVANI)

London (AFP) - British low-cost airline EasyJet charted a course on Friday to keep flying unhindered across the European Union after Brexit.

The carrier, which is based in Luton, north of London, said in a statement that it will create a new division, EasyJet Europe, which will be based in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

EasyJet, which will retain its Luton headquarters, added that it has applied for a new air operator's certificate (AOC) in Austria to continue flying across Europe regardless of the final Brexit deal between Brussels and London.

The accreditation process is "now well advanced" and it should be concluded "in the near future", the no-frills carrier said.

The application "will allow EasyJet to establish a new airline, EasyJet Europe, which will be headquartered in Vienna and will enable EasyJet to continue to operate flights both across Europe and domestically within European countries after the UK has left the EU", the company added.

EasyJet Europe will become the group's third airline division after EasyJet in Luton and EasyJet Switzerland in Geneva.

Vienna was picked because EasyJet had concluded that its airline regulator was "the best fit" for the firm.

The switch will create jobs in Austria, while no positions would be lost in Britain.

"While the new structure will protect all of EasyJet's current flying rights within Europe, EasyJet will continue to push for the UK and EU to reach an aviation agreement which, at a minimum, will enable flights between the UK and EU," the statement added.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern hailed the announcement as "tremendous news for Austria".

The stock market largely shrugged off the news, with the share price edging just 0.1 percent lower to 1,407 pence compared with Thursday's closing level.

"Investors would most probably take as a given that EasyJet would address this successfully as it has no other choice," independent aviation analyst John Strickland told AFP.

"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 strategic and essential part of its business."

Oanda analyst Craig Erlam added that the development had removed any uncertainty over the matter.

"Investors are underwhelmed simply because they expected a resolution to be found and it's been done very early on," Erlam said.

Soon after Britain voted in a referendum a year ago in favour of exiting the EU, EasyJet applied for a European Union licence to keep flying throughout the bloc.

Britain's airline industry has soared over the last two decades under the Single European Sky system, which lifted trade restrictions on EU airlines.

Unless British negotiators manage to secure preferential conditions, British airlines could lose this status once the country leaves the EU.

This will mean they no longer enjoy rights including being able to freely set airfares, and to launch any route in Europe without getting prior authorisation.

Passengers leaving or arriving in the United Kingdom will face new taxes and British airlines face obstacles and delays in developing new routes.

Britain will leave the EU in March 2019 after voting in a shock referendum last year in favour of its departure.