On January 1st 2021 the UK will complete its exit from the European Union (a process known as ‘Brexit’). The EU and UK have agreed a ‘’ covering every aspect of the UK withdrawal from the EU. The process has significant implications for aviation. Fortunately the agreement has settled most of these issues and passengers should not notice significant impediment to their travel between the UK and EU after December 31st 2020, excepting restrictions concerning COVID-19, which are not related to Brexit.

Please consult these Frequently Asked Questions for more information on the implications of the Brexit agreement for aviation and travel:

FAQs on Brexit and Air Travel

The rights of movement are not affected and people will be able to travel between the UK and EU. However, there will be some differences. UK passport holders may need to queue in the non-EU passport lanes, which may mean a longer wait to get through the border (though individual EU states have discretion on this).

A travel visa will not be required unless staying for more than 90 days in any 180 day period in the EU. However, some work occupations may require visas, and professionals will need to check if their qualifications/certifications will still be valid.

It is important to note that due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions, UK travelers are banned from entering much of the EU or subject to quarantine measures -details can be found .These restrictions are not connected with Brexit but will affect travel in the short term. For more information on travel restrictions to/from the EU and UK, please visit our Travel Center site.

The UK government is that passengers ensure they

  • Have a passport that has at least 6 months validity and is less than 10 years old
  • Make sure they are not carrying any milk or meat into the EU and have the right certificates for certain plants/plant products
  • If driving, ensure they have an insurance green card and to check with the embassy of the country to see if additional certification (e.g. international drivers licence) is required
  • Prepare at least one month in advance to secure an animal health certificate if travelling with a pet, as the current pet passport scheme will not be valid

The EU and UK have granted access to each other’s airlines (known as 3rd and 4th ‘Freedoms of the air’) so most people won’t notice any difference. However, there are some restrictions on UK-registered carriers to operate in Europe, most notably they will not be able to use an EU destination as a point of departure to another destination outside the EU (known as ‘5th freedoms’) although member states have discretion to agree this with the UK for cargo-only flights. For more detail, see the questions on code sharing and wet leasing, and ownership, at the bottom of this FAQ.

Security procedures are not expected to change, and the UK and EU have agreed to common standards and cooperation in this area. Passengers and cargo operators are unlikely to notice any changes.

The agreement makes provision for timely, effective, efficient and reciprocal exchange of passenger name record (PNR) data. Transparency and data protection measures have been carried over from the previous regime.

UK departing passengers will no longer be covered by EU261 however the UK has transposed the wording of EU261 into UK legislation so passengers will not see any immediate difference. For passengers departing an EU point to the UK, EU261 will continue to apply. In the longer term some consumer protection provisions may diverge, but the agreement stipulates that “effective and non-discriminatory measures are taken to protect the interests of consumers.”

The UK will have its own safety regulator, standards, and certifications. However, these are not expected to diverge significantly from the EU and a reciprocal recognition of each other’s’ standards has been agreed, with the UK granted ‘third country’ status. This is crucial to enable the supply chain for aircraft manufacturing to continue uninterrupted, as well as recognizing pilots’ licenses and a host of other standards.

The agreement covers air traffic management issues and ensures continued seamless operation between air navigation service providers (ANSPs) in the UK and EU. NATS, the UK ANSP, has been granted a license to operate services in the EU. And UK businesses can still participate in, and access funds for, EU research and development programs, such as SESAR.

As with consumer protection, the UK will no longer be bound by the EU slot regulation and will need to develop its own regulation. Under the agreement the allocation of slots at the airports in its territory must be applied in a transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and timely manner.The industry will be pressing the UK to ensure that its new rules are aligned with the Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG) which are the global standard for transparent and fair slot regulation, developed by airports, airlines and independent slot regulators. 

The agreement stipulates that an “effective” carbon pricing mechanism must be maintained by the UK for aviation when it leaves the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This could potentially mean the ICAO CORSIA scheme, but it is likely the UK will create its own emissions trading scheme which aviation will be part of.  Also, the agreement says that biofuels shall only be supported as renewable energy if they meet robust criteria for sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, which are subject to verification.

Yes, code-sharing and marketing agreements can continue, except on standalone routes within the UK or EU. UK airlines can continue to wet lease (that is, “hire” the use of an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance from another airline) without restriction on the routes covered by the agreement, however EU carriers will need to justify an exceptional need if they wish to wet lease from a UK carrier.

Both UK and EU carriers must be majority owned and controlled by their own nationals and based in their territory. The agreement recognizes the potential benefits of continued liberalization of ownership and control of their respective air carriers, so the ownership rules may be reviewed in the future.