British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), is reportedly seeking support from the Spanish government ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit in an attempt to keep operations running smoothly after 29 March 2019.
El Pais, the Spanish newspaper, reported that IAG’s status as a European carrier may be at risk if it fails to comply with airline ownership legislation.
Existing rules state that more than 50 per cent of an airline must be owned and controlled by EU nationals in order for it to be considered an European carrier, a figure that IAG may struggle to meet after Brexit.
In addition to British Airways, IAG owns Spanish carrier Iberia, Vueling, Ireland’s Aer Lingus and low-cost long-haul carrier Level.
IAG was established in 2011. While its registered offices are in Madrid, operational headquarters are based in London.
Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, has previously refuted any suggestion that the company may struggle following a no-deal Brexit, dismissing the concept as “nonsense”.
According to the Guardian, Walsh claimed that potential aviation complexities involving the EU had been resolved at the time of the company’s creation.
At the news that IAG was potentially consulting with the Spanish government, Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party and shadow culture secretary, simply tweeted: “Spanish Airways”.
A spokesperson for IAG told The Independent: “We remain confident that a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and the UK will be reached. It’s in the UK and EU’s interests to have a fully liberalised aviation agreement.
“Aviation liberalisation has been a great success story across Europe, benefiting one billion customers each year and creating a huge number of jobs across the continent.
“Even if there is no Brexit deal, both the EU and UK have said they will put an agreement in place that allows flights to continue.”
Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent Minds
In the event of a no-deal scenario, UK passengers could experience flight disruptions and cancellations according to government papers.
However, Tim Alderslade, the chief executive for Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, said he felt “confident” that the UK and EU could reach an agreement on aviation.