If you take a snapshot of a few hours of air traffic over a couple of days recently there’s a massive drop in air traffic across Europe. This is expected to go down more as repatriation flights complete their tasks. Although some airports are closing there’s still going to be the need to ship vital cargo around so air traffic will not drop to zero as it did ten years ago during the volcanic ash events. However, this time the shut down is going to be longer and covers a lot of the globe. This coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the aviation industry.
Internationally, ICAO has issued COVID-19 calls to Governments, urging better coordination with aircraft operators on air services and the flight restrictions in force. A situation where national Governments all take different actions is only going to increase the pain caused. The coronavirus knows no borders and no politics. It will create economic casualties across all parts of Europe.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that aviation safety depends on highly qualified professionals continuing to work in the most difficult circumstances.
We do see the curse of English exceptionalism as Brexit rumbles on. This is particularly true if the UK crashes out of current arrangements in June. UK Minister Gove wants to continue with UK-EU negotiations when we should be putting all our efforts into defeating the pandemic.
In negotiations, reports are the UK has tabled draft texts outlining separate proposed agreements on subjects that include aviation and transport. The texts are not public, so this is all behind closed doors for now.
The UK has left the European Medicine Agency which at one time was based in London. To me this a wholly unwise thing to have done under the current circumstances. European solidarity can strengthen our ability to win against COVID-19. Even if few politicians are putting that case in the UK Parliament. In fact, the House of Commons (HoCs) has adjourned for the Easter recess and will only next sit on 21 April 2020. Unfortunately, people are mostly thinking nationally and yet this is a global issue.
Wisely, given the crisis the UK CAA has notified a delay in an increase in its scheme of charges. This will be reviewed in June 2020. These will be changed when the long-term UK-EU aviation relationship has been determined.
Will the UK seek an extension to the UK-EU negotiating period before 1 July 2020? We just don’t know but I imagine that the public relations line and what really happens are going to be different.