EasyJet is creating a new airline so it can continue flying in the European Union after Brexit.
It has applied for a new air operator certificate in Austria at a cost of £10m.
The budget airline said the application process was “well advanced” and it hoped to receive the accreditation “in the near future”.
It will allow the low-cost carrier to establish easyJetEurope, which will have its headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna.
Since the 1990s, EU airlines have been free to fly between any two points in Europe.
This is planning for a worst case scenario should Britain fail to negotiate the same aviation freedoms it currently enjoys as a member of the EU.
The company said the move would enable the airline to operate flights both across Europe and domestically within Europe once Britain exits the EU – “regardless of the outcome of talks on a future UK-EU aviation agreement”.
The establishment of the new hub will create new jobs in Austria, but the airline asserted “no jobs will move from the UK to Austria” and that “nothing will change” from the perspective of passengers.
Image: The company says no jobs will move from the UK
“All of easyJet’s UK employees will continue to be based in Luton and our 11 UK bases and employed as they are today,” the firm said.
“Given the importance of aviation to all the economies of Europe as an enabler of trade, tourism and travel, we think it is important that the aviation market remains as open and competitive as possible.
“While the new structure will protect all of easyJet’s current flying rights within Europe, easyJet will continue to push for the UK and EU to reach an aviation agreement which, at a minimum, will enable flights between the UK and EU.”
UK ministers have said maintaining “liberal access” to European aviation markets will be a “top priority” during the Brexit negotiations which got under way in June.
Under present rules, airlines operating within the EU must be majority owned by EU nationals.
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his family hold Cypriot passports and own 33% of shares in the business.
The firm currently also has airlines based in the UK and Switzerland.
All three airlines will be owned by easyJet plc, which will be EU-owned and controlled, listed on the London Stock Exchange and based in the UK.
A Government spokesman said ministers were “committed to securing liberal access to European aviation markets which has brought huge benefits to consumers across the EU”.
Source: Sky News