MIAMI – On Wednesday, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed the possibility of grounded flights between the EU and UK if a deal cannot be struck before the expiration of the Brexit transition period on January 1. The two sides have been holding negotiations over the last few weeks.

“We’re seeking arrangements that will maintain connectivity,” said Shapps at the ABTA Virtual Travel Conference. The theme of the conference this year – ‘Rebuilding Confidence in Travel’.

Both sides are working hard to conclude a deal before the January 1 deadline, as a large number of grounded flights would be deadly to the already-struggling airline industry. Airline revenue losses worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been estimated at around USD$314bn, according to Statista.

A British Airways (BA) Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. PHOTO: Brandon Ferris/Airways

Negotiation Progress

As the deadline closes in, the two parties are in “broad agreement” over a deal, said Snapps. He continued by saying that the UK will be exploring “limited additional flexibilities for both road and air that would be of benefit to both sides” before a deal can be concluded.

“Negotiations as you know have been intensified in recent weeks, and although the time’s now tight, we remain hopeful that an agreement can be achieved.”

In the event a deal cannot be secured, Snapps believes the two sides can agree upon measures to keep aircraft in the skies.

“We expect the EU to bring forward contingency measures, as they’ve done before, to ensure flights will continue if negotiations are unsuccessful. Of course we would look to reciprocate that.”

Featured Image: Virgin Atlantic (VS) Airbus A350-1000. VS could be one of the many airlines affected by potential groundings. Photo: Anna Zvereva/Wikimedia