British low-cost airline EasyJet charted a course on Friday to keep flying unhindered across the European Union after Brexit.
The carrier, which is based in Luton, north of the British capital, said in a statement that it will create a new division, EasyJet Europe, which will be based in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
EasyJet, which will retain its Luton headquarters, added that it has applied for a new air operator’s certificate (AOC) in Austria to continue flying across Europe regardless of the final Brexit deal between Brussels and London.
The accreditation process is “now well advanced” and it should be concluded “in the near future”, the company said.
The application “will allow EasyJet to establish a new airline, EasyJet Europe, which will be headquartered in Vienna and will enable EasyJet to continue to operate flights both across Europe and domestically within European countries after the UK has left the EU”, the no-frills carrier added.
EasyJet Europe will become the group’s third airline division after EasyJet in Luton and EasyJet Switzerland in Geneva.
Vienna was picked because EasyJet had concluded that its airline regulator was “the best fit” for the firm.
The switch will create jobs in Austria, while no positions would be lost in Britain.
“While the new structure will protect all of EasyJet’s current flying rights within Europe, EasyJet will continue to push for the UK and EU to reach an aviation agreement which, at a minimum, will enable flights between the UK and EU,” the statement added.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern hailed the announcement as “tremendous news for Austria”.
Investors, however, shrugged off the news, with the share price edging around 0.1 percent higher to 1,410 pence compared with the closing level on Thursday.
Soon after Britain voted in a referendum a year ago in favour of exiting the EU, EasyJet applied for a European Union licence to keep flying throughout the bloc.
Britain’s airline industry has soared over the last two decades under the Single European Sky system, which lifted trade restrictions on EU airlines.
Unless British negotiators manage to secure preferential conditions, British airlines could lose this status once the country leaves the EU.
This will mean they no longer enjoy rights including being able to freely set airfares, and to launch any route in Europe without getting prior authorisation.
Passengers leaving or arriving in the United Kingdom will face new taxes and British airlines face obstacles and delays in developing new routes.
Under plans unveiled on Friday, EasyJet Europe will operate 100 planes and 4,000 crew flying across the 27 remaining European Union nations following Brexit.
The main EasyJet airline in Luton will operate 140 planes and 6,000 staff for UK flights, while EasyJet Switzerland will have 25 planes and 950 staff in Geneva.