Low-cost carrier easyJet picks Vienna for post-Brexit base
Britain's budget airline easyJet will relocate European operations to Austria to continue flying on the mainland after Brexit, the company confirmed on Friday.
The largest airline of the United Kingdom, easyJet wants to "keep offering flights from within the European Union to all of Europe and within the EU nations - irrespective of the outcome of a future aviation agreement between the UK and EU."
In March, the airline, which serves more than 30 countries, said a bilateral aviation agreement was a "minimum requirement" from Brexit negotiations.
However, none has been forthcoming and the company confirmed plans for a new structure in Vienna, which would create jobs in Austria without any losses in the UK. For the carrier to continuing its operations in the European Union, it must gain an air operator certificate (AOC) in one of the bloc's member states.
The carrier's new airline licence in Austria will protect its flights regardless of what happens in negotiations over the status of flights between Britain and the EU after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019. A statement from the airline confirmed the "accreditation process is now well advanced" and a decision is likely in the near future.
easyJet is headquartered in Luton, 30 miles north of London, and already has a Swiss licence and AOC.
Austria beat out other European countries
easyJet said it had selected Austria because of its strict implementation of European safety regulations and the fact that it should be able to handle large numbers of planes thanks to its experience with other major airlines.
"The quality of the country won in competition with 27 other European countries, not tax dumping. The better one won, not the cheaper one," Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said in a statement.
Lufthansa also selected an Austrian operating licence for its budget unit Eurowings, a move that drew criticism from German unions which viewed it as a way of avoiding more expensive German labor contracts.
The no-frills airline, which will rename as easyJet Europe after the relocation, said it also selected Austria due to its current airport infrastructure and ability to deal with a large number of planes. Austria's Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried called hosting the airline's European operations an "honor."