Brexit has left British cargo, charter and leasing airlines with fewer contracts and business than their EU rivals.
The carriers say the Brexit deal and the rules formulated under it have given more freedom and flexibility to EU-owned airlines to fly in the UK than British airlines have in Europe.
Now, foreign carriers need permits to fly ad hoc flights between the UK and mainland Europe, but EU airlines obtain such permits faster than British rivals and, therefore, are winning more business.
Small UK airlines, which provide back-up passenger services and cargo flights, are being affected the worst and they have warned that the Brexit discrepancies could put them out of work.
Titan Airways, Jota Aviation, Loganair, CargoLogicAir and Air Tanker are among the carriers that want to join forces which plan to launch a campaign to save British aviation jobs.
Andrew Green, the chief executive of Jota, says EU countries’ regulators can take two to three business days to issue them a permit, while EU carriers can obtain permits from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority within hours.
“Our clients understand that the UK issues permits quickly. We missed out on business to a Ukrainian Antonov 12 – an old cold war transport aeroplane – to fly car parts from the UK to Germany. The customer thought it was easier to do that than wait for us to get a permit.”
“The permit system needs to be relaxed – or if there is protectionism in the EU, it needs to be reciprocal," he added.
“This is going to destroy UK aviation … We are going to end up with a situation where one of the most connected places on earth is reliant on foreign carriers.”
Due to the Breixt deal, UK carriers have also greater restrictions providing aircraft and crew for other airlines, known as wet-leasing, according to Alistair Wilson, the managing director of Titan Airways.
While EU airlines are able to operate most wet-lease flights in the UK under the system, British operators argue they can only do so now in exceptional circumstances in the bloc.
“This is an area of business many UK carriers and UK aviation jobs rely on,” Wilson said. “We lost a contract we had operated for the past 12 months requiring a UK-based aircraft and crew to fly cargo between the UK and Germany. The airline was forced to wet-lease from an EU carrier, even though the contract required UK-based aircraft, crew and engineers. This is EU law still presiding over business based in the UK.”
Another problem British carries now have pertains to a “non-objection” process which operates in some EU countries but not in the UK, meaning foreign carriers can only obtain permits for work if no domestic airline objects.
This process is allowing EU airlines to block permits for UK carriers to operate flights in and out of EU member states, the airlines say.
Wilson warned unless market access was reciprocal, “hundreds of UK aviation jobs, many of which the government has spent the last year supporting through furlough, will be lost to the continent”.