Iberia at risk of losing domestic and European routes post Brexit

Published:  27 Dec at 6 PM
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A no-deal Brexit could become a nightmare for domestic flights across Spain.

In the event of the UK failing to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Spain could be left with no domestic flights. A no-deal break with the EU could leave the country’s national airline Iberia without an operating license for both flights within Spain and those to other European member states. The problem is that Iberia is British-owned by the London-based International Airline Group, (AIG), which also owns Vueling and British Airways. Unless emergency changes are made, the group will lose its license after March 29.

According to Iberia, there’s nothing to worry about as it’s in negotiations with the EU and has the support of Spain’s government. However, the airline’s spokesperson didn’t specify whether or not a solution was been discussed. Faced with similar situations, Ryanair and EasyJet have already announced they’re planning to transfer control to either an EU-based individual or entity in order to be able to pass the 51 per cent ownership hurdle. Iberia has not yet stated it plans to do the same.

The airline has already attempted to claim it’s Spanish by citing its regular Madrid-based shareholder meetings and its managerial offices and infrastructure in Spain’s capital, a ruse which cut no ice at all with the EU, which stresses London is the final arbiter of any decisions made in Madrid. Airlines which don’t comply with the EU’s conditions may still be allowed to run their services within Europe post-Brexit, simply because licenses can only be revoked by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The organisation could well agree to an extension of Iberia’s license, but the EC and European Court of justice could overturn its decision.

For expats in Spain, especially those whose businesses depend on easy access across the country and within the EU, a possible suspension of Iberia’s domestic and pan-EU services could be damaging, to say the least, as it would lead to extended trips and higher costs. British expat retirees already resident would see fewer effects, but those with holiday homes and those who’ve recently purchased Spanish property with the hope of emigrating in the near future might well suffer from the loss of the service, however temporary. In addition, it’s possible Iberia’s European competitors might attempt to block any license extension in order to hijack the airline’s regular expatriate and Spanish clients.
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