October 18, 2017 / 11:14 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Budget airline Wizz Air applies for UK licence ahead of Brexit

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LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Budget airline Wizz Air has become the latest European carrier to move to shore up its post-Brexit flying rights by applying for a licence in Britain ahead of the country’s departure from the European Union.

Flying rights are currently governed by EU-wide deals and because it is not part of the World Trade Organization, the aviation sector has no natural fallback arrangement to protect flights if there is no deal between Britain and the EU.

Wizz Air UK, a subsidiary of Hungary-based Wizz Air, will begin operations in March 2018 if its application to the Civil Aviation Authority for an air operator’s certificate (AOC) and operating licence is successful, it said.

Wizz is listed in London, but the majority of its operations are focused on Europe. Wizz said the move would see 100 new jobs added to its base in Luton by the end of 2018.

“It is a natural, next-step in the development of our UK business,” CEO Jozsef Varadi said in a statement.

“This move is also part of our broader strategy to ensure that our UK operations are Brexit-ready.”

Luton-based airline easyJet has chosen Vienna, Austria for an AOC, to protect its ability to fly between EU destinations once Britain leaves the bloc.

An AOC in Britain could allow Wizz to fly in between UK-only destinations, however it currently operates no such flights and did not indicate that its strategy was now to do so.

Still, even with various AOCs, airlines still need governments to agree new traffic agreements, with some in the industry having voiced the view that flights from Britain to remaining EU countries could be grounded unless progress is made soon.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Kate Holton and David Evans

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