British budget airline easyJet said on Friday it would establish a new airline in Austria to protect its flying rights in the European Union once Britain leaves the bloc. The new airline, easyJet Europe, will be headquartered in Vienna. The budget airline must have a licence and an air operator’s certificate (AOC) in an EU member to allow it to continue flying between and within EU countries after Brexit. The new airline licence in Austria will protect these flights regardless of what happens in negotiations over the status of flights between Britain and the EU after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
“The accreditation process is now well advanced and easyJet hopes to receive the AOC and licence in the near future,” easyJet said in a statement. EasyJet is headquartered in Luton, 30 miles north of London, and said jobs there would be unaffected. The airline already has a Swiss licence and AOC. Lufthansa also selected an Austrian operating licence for its budget unit Eurowings. Lufthansa management drew criticism from German unions for the move which they viewed as a way of avoiding more expensive German labour contracts.
EasyJet said it had selected Austria because of its strict implementation of European safety regulations and the fact that it should be able to handle large numbers of planes thanks to its experience with other major airlines. The move will create jobs in Vienna, easyJet said, and Austria welcomed the airline’s decision. “The quality of the country won in competition with 27 other European countries, not tax dumping. The better one won, not the cheaper one,” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said in a statement.
“The first talks with (easyJet) CEO Carolyn McCall had already taken place in October last year. This is a victory that was heavily fought for, but which is all the more beautiful for Austria.” EasyJet said it will re-register 110 planes to fly under the new AOC and that it planned to complete this process before Britain leaves the EU.