GlobeAir, Austria’s largest business aircraft operator, said it will face huge delays and costly restrictions for its UK-bound flights starting April 1 unless its country’s civil aviation authority urgently offers a reciprocal block permit arrangement for UK charter companies.
After the 11-month Brexit transition period ended on December 31, the UK government permitted non-scheduled operators in the 27 EU member states to continue exercising Third and Fourth Freedom rights—allowing flights to and from the UK—under a block permit agreement. Each permit would be reviewed by the UK CAA after three months, with renewal conditional on each EU country offering reciprocal freedoms to UK operators.
“Austria is one of the many states that has not offered a favorable arrangement, so our block permit expires on March 31,” says GlobeAir founder and chief executive Bernhard Fragner. “Now we are facing having to apply for a permit every time we want to fly to the UK, which will cost around £80 ($111) per flight and take up to 48 hours to get approval, which rather undermines the value of business aviation.”
Fragner described the UK as “one of GlobeAir’s largest and most important markets,” with the company flying an average of two flights into the country every day. The company operates a fleet of 20 Cessna Citation Mustangs.
He called the UK CAA’s block permit arrangement “a very generous gift to EU operators, which has really worked in our favor.”
In contrast, UK operators have been severely curtailed since January 1. With the absence of reciprocal block permits, these companies have been forced to submit permit applications with an individual state on a flight-by-flight basis, which has often proven a costly and lengthy process.
“In the absence of a reciprocal block permit arrangement, we and about 20 other Austrian companies will now have to adopt the same practice for UK-bound flights, but I really don’t blame the CAA for the situation we are in,” said Fragner.
He accused the Austrian government of being “too slow” to put a reciprocal arrangement in place. “I will be reminding the department of transport every day to get it sorted with the UK and quickly. We can’t delay as our [charter] industry has too much to lose,” he added.
According to EBAA, GlobeAir’s predicament looks set to be mirrored by many fellow EU operators starting April 1. “The UK will most likely supply new block permits [on April 1] but only to countries on a reciprocal basis,” it said. “So far that has been agreed with Italy and France. There are ongoing discussions with a majority of countries, but the CAA indicated that with several authorities they have not progressed enough to move forward.”
EBAA is calling on all affected EU-based operators to “reach out” to their respective governments, national associations, and aviation authorities to raise awareness on what the withdrawal of the [UK] block permit scheme would mean for them.”