America’s leading airlines are warning that flights could be grounded if the UK leaves the EU’s Open Skies agreement without negotiating a new deal.
Nicholas Calio, president and chief executive of Airlines for America, told Sky News’ Ian King Live programme: “Without that legal framework, we can’t fly.”
Some 85% of flights leaving the UK go to areas covered by treaties negotiated by the European Union.
That includes all of the EU member states as well as other European countries, the United States, Canada, and parts of the Middle East.
Mr Calio, whose members transport more than 90% of all US airline passenger and cargo traffic, has met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as Airlines for America lobbies the Government to separate aviation from other issues being discussed with Brussels.
“Right now the EU is committed to making it one big negotiation, I think that’s the stance that Great Britain has taken as well,” he said.
“We don’t believe we can afford to be part of one great big pot that needs to be stirred over the next 20 months.”
The UK has the third largest aviation and aerospace economy in the world.
Almost three million passengers originating in the US every year transit through Heathrow Airport to the other 27 member states.
The industry is warning that without a new legal agreement between the UK and the EU flights will be suspended and people’s holidays for summer 2019 will be cancelled.
Mr Calio warned: “Everybody flies now, it’s like a public utility in many people’s minds.
“It’s there, they expect it, if it’s not there they are going to be very unhappy.”