Tuesday 17 November 2020 12:25 pm

UK and US sign aviation agreement to protect vital travel links

The government has today signed a deal with the US ensuring that aviation links can continue unchanged after 1 January.

The new Air Services Agreement will replace the existing EU-US deal, which will cease to apply to the UK deal when the Brexit transition period ends.

The transatlantic air travel market is one of the most lucrative in the world and is a key element in the UK’s £230bn per annum trading relationship with the US.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps signed the deal this morning along with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and transportation secretary Elaine Chao.

Shapps said: “The Air Services Agreement will allow us to continue to travel and trade with one of our closest friends and allies, working together to mutually boost our economies either side of the Atlantic.

“This is just one of many steps we’re taking as we move towards a bright new future at the end of the transition period.” 

Despite today’s agreement, there are still fears over the future of UK air links with the EU itself, with current arrangements also due to lapse on 1 January.

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Pilots’ union Balpa has called for the government to commit to agreeing an air travel deal with the bloc even if wider free trade negotiations come to nothing.

General secretary Brian Strutton said: “The Prime Minister and the EU side simply must commit that whatever the outcome of these trade talks, an EU-UK air service agreement, providing as much freedom to fly as possible and with mutual recognition of licences, will be signed by both sides ASAP, and that planes will keep flying.

“To do otherwise would be reckless given the parlous state of this industry right now.” 

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said that the government was “confident” measures would be in place to continue air transport after the end of the transition period.

“The government’s priority is to ensure that flights can continue to operate safely, securely and punctually between the UK/EU at the end of transition period, regardless of the outcome of negotiations”, they said.

It is also in negotiations to secure similar agreements with other significant markets like Canada, Switzerland, and Iceland.