EasyJet has applied for a new air operator certificate in Austria to allow it to continue flying in the European Union after Brexit.
The airline announced today it had applied to Austria's Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology for an airline operating licence, and to Austro Control for an air operator certificate earlier this year.
These will allow the carrier to establish a new airline, EasyJet Europe, which will be headquartered in Vienna.
"The accreditation process is now well advanced and EasyJet hopes to receive the AOC and licence in the near future," it said in a statement.
The set-up will allow the airline to operate flights both across Europe and domestically within European countries after the UK has left the EU - regardless of what comes out of the negotiations between the UK and EU on a future aviation agreement.
The airline confirmed it would go through the process shortly after Britain's vote to leave the EU in June last year. And in January, EasyJet confirmed it would spend £10m for an air operation certificate to secure flying rights for 30 per cent of its routes.
It flies more than 78m passengers each year and around half come from the other 27 EU member states. The low-cost carrier said it carried out a rigorous process to select the right country for its European airline, and opted for Austria as it wanted a regulator that could take on a large number of aircraft and had experience of an airline operating at scale.
The future EasyJet will have three airlines, based in Austria, Switzerland and the UK, along with its commercial and operational services firm based in the UK. EasyJet will be EU-owned and controlled, listed on the LSE and based in the UK.
EasyJet said there will be no job moves from the UK, though the creation of EasyJet Europe will create a number of new jobs in Austria.
As for UK flying rights, the airline said it has had constructive discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority and the government about future regulatory framework for UK aviation post-Brexit, and is confident it can cope regardless of what scenario unfolds.
The aviation industry has been vocal over its Brexit concerns and what will happen next for the open skies agreements, with airline bosses telling European Parliament's transport and tourism committee earlier this week that an aviation deal between the EU and Britain needs to be signed soon.
But transport secretary Chris Grayling told industry figures that "it'll be some time yet" before the government can deliver the certainty they crave regarding Brexit.
Speaking on Wednesday at the Aviation Club Lunch in London, Grayling said:
Now, I know that the aviation industry wants certainty, and quickly. So does the government. So does the rest of the EU. It’ll be some time yet before we can deliver that certainty. The formal negotiations have only just begun.
But he reiterated the government's aims to reach a positive deal for the industry, saying that one of its priorities "is to secure the best possible access to European aviation markets".
Grayling said the government was also working hard to deliver the quick replacement of the EU-based third country agreements, with countries like the US and Canada.
"It’s in the interests of all countries, and all who travel between them, that we seek open, liberal arrangements for aviation," he added.