UK govt urged to secure recognition of UK licences by the EU

UK pilot licences have been “seriously degraded in value and utility” following Brexit, according to a letter sent by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps.

“The new state of play has actively prevented UK pilots, including those made redundant due to Covid-19, from securing UK jobs,” said the letter.

BALPA asks Mr Shapps for “the UK to re-secure the swift and cost-free mutual recognition of European pilot licences”.

The letter continues, “Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, pilots with UK pilot licences are no longer able to fly EU registered aircraft – including those based at UK airports – without a lengthy and expensive licence conversion. This is an active barrier to UK pilots being offered jobs.

“However, pilots with EU licences are able to fly aircraft registered in the UK, giving EASA licenced pilots the advantage in applications.

“To date, the UK Government has done little to even raise this contradiction with the EU. This is despite BALPA, the pilots’ union, stressing that a reciprocal arrangement would open-up job opportunities to the thousands of UK registered pilots made redundant due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.”

Acting BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said, “There are thousands of out-of-work pilots with highly-respected UK licences, unable to take up positions with airlines registered in Europe but flying in and out of the UK. Yet pilots with EU licences are able to fly for UK registered airlines.

“This is an anomaly missed by the Government during the negotiations that needs to be resolved. It worked perfectly for both pilots and airlines across Europe prior to Brexit. Ministers need to aim higher in their discussions on it with their EU counterparts.

“Pilots want the Government to stand up for their profession and help them get back flying rather than relying on furlough or struggling with redundancy.”

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement requires pilots registered with a UK licence to transfer their licence to a European licence in order to operate aircraft registered with European Common Aviation (ECAA) Area nations, which involves a lengthy and expensive process. Many aircraft based in the UK are ECAA registered. The UK has decided to recognise EASA licences for up to two years.