The boss of British Airways has dismissed claims – including from Chancellor Philip Hammond – that flights could be grounded if Britain leaves the EU without a divorce deal.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, expressed confidence an agreement on air travel will be reached even if there is a “no deal” Brexit.
Speaking to MPs on the House of Commons Transport Committee, Mr Walsh said: “The prospect of there being no flying between the UK and Europe, I don’t agree with at all because it goes well beyond that.
“I think this would bring the whole of Europe to a standstill.”
The airline chief insisted there are “technical ways of addressing any scenario” over Britain’s exit from the EU.
His view was backed up by easyJet’s UK director Sophie Dekkers and Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye, who also gave evidence to the committee.
Highlighting how negotiations have taken place behind the scenes between ministers and countries such as America over post-Brexit flight arrangements, Mr Holland-Kaye said he shared faith there would be no disruption to services beyond 2019.
“From an EU point of view it’s just as much in their interest to have continuity after Brexit as it is for us,” he said.
Video: ‘No air traffic’ on day Britain leaves EU?
He pointed to the importance of air transport for EU-UK trade as well as the significance of tourism for countries such as Spain, adding: “It is inconceivable they would have any discontinuity.”
At his own airport, Mr Holland-Kaye revealed German airline Lufthansa has nearly $1bn (£760m) worth of value linked to its landing slots at Heathrow.
“That’s not something they’re going to give up lightly,” he said.
He added there will be “pressure internally within the EU to make sure a sensible, pragmatic deal is put together” on air travel even if Britain fails to agree a transitional departure deal with the bloc.
Earlier this month, the Chancellor warned it is “theoretically conceivable” the absence of a Brexit deal could see no planes flying between Britain and the EU on the day the UK leaves the bloc.
But he added: “I don’t think anybody seriously believes that is where we will get to.”