EasyJet Moves Pilots to New Licenses to Stem No-Deal Brexit Risk

(Bloomberg) -- EasyJet Plc is shifting its pilots based in mainland Europe to Austrian and German licenses in an effort to minimize the potential fall-out from a no-deal Brexit.

The 1,400 affected will be moved to licenses issued by Austria from November, an official at the Luton, England-based carrier said. German crew will be registered locally, while British pilots operating in the U.K. won’t change.

“Depending on the outcome of Brexit, U.K.-issued pilot licences may not be valid within the EU,” the company said, adding that it had agreed on the solution with the relevant regulators, including the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority. The change will incur a “limited cost” per pilot, it said.

The aviation could potentially be one of the worst-hit on the scheduled exit day of March 29 if Prime Minister Theresa May and her counterparts in the EU fail to reach a working agreement. Without continued regulatory cooperation, the CAA -- which also provides licenses for aircraft parts and engines manufactured in Britain -- would no longer be recognized internationally, risking mass groundings.

The move is the latest effort by EasyJet, which last year created a new airline based in Vienna specifically to keep its EU planes flying after Brexit, shifting the registration for 110 aircraft to the unit. It began assessing options for the unit days after the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in mid-2016, when the leave vote wiped out a third of EasyJet’s market value.

Along with Irish discounter Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet has also been shoring up its shareholder base on the continent to avoid falling afoul of airline ownership restrictions that require carriers to be majority owned by nationals.

U.K. Transport Minister Chris Grayling in July indicated that an agreement that would allow flights to continue would be reached even without an wider accord with the bloc.

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