UK low-cost carrier (LCC) easyJet has applied for an air operator’s certificate (AOC) in Austria as the LCC faces uncertainty about being able to continue flying in the European Union (EU) after Brexit. The new airline, easyJet Europe, would be headquartered in Vienna.

Currently, EasyJet’s network depends heavily on EU route rights. An EU AOC would safeguard the LCC’s network, should the UK and EU fail to agree on a new air transport accord before the UK exits the EU.

EasyJet said that with the new company structure, the LCC should become a pan-European airline group with three subsidiaries, which will be registered in Austria (easyJet Europe), and include existing easyJet Switzerland and easyJet UK.

An easyJet source told ATW the application process is far advanced and the carrier hopes the certification will be granted in the near future. “There is no doubt that this AOC will be granted by Austrian authorities,” the source told ATW.

The carrier said the decision to choose Austria has been based on the fact that Austro Control follows a strict course of implementing safety directives, which are fully in line with the path set by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) toward more performance-oriented security.

This EU AOC is essential for easyJet as half of 75 million passengers annually come from the EU-27 member states. The LCC has based 100 Airbus A320 aircraft and 4,000 employees in six EU member states. Once easyJet Europe is certified, up to 110 aircraft deployed for EU operations will be registered with an OE Austrian code.

EasyJet has also based 25 aircraft and 950 employees in Switzerland, and 140 aircraft and 6,000 employees in the UK.

The aircraft re-registration process should be completed over two winter seasons to secure flight operations. EasyJet said this process must be completed before Brexit takes effect. When this happens, ATW understands easyJet will become Austria’s largest carrier in terms of aircraft.

“All the aircraft that are based, for example, in places such as France and Germany will get an Austrian registration. However, that does not mean the aircraft will be based in Austria,” the source told ATW.

EasyJet said it will establish several new jobs in Austria, but will not transfer any positions from the UK to Austria.

EasyJet has operated flights from Austria for 11 years. So far in 2017, the carrier has transported 1 million passengers from four airports in Austria to 20 European destinations.

EasyJet said it will continue to seek an air transport agreement between the EU and the UK, which will at least allow flights between the UK and the EU.

The LCC flies over 260 aircraft on more than 870 routes to over 138 airports across 31 countries.

Kurt Hofmann