EasyJet passengers wait at Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport in France. Picture: REUTERS
EasyJet passengers wait at Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport in France. Picture: REUTERS

London — EasyJet is shifting its pilots based in mainland Europe to Austrian and German licences in an effort to minimise the potential fall-out from a no-deal Brexit.

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

"Depending on the outcome of Brexit, UK-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 UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The change will incur a "limited cost" per pilot, it said.

The aviation sector 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 co-operation, the CAA — which also provides licences for aircraft parts and engines manufactured in Britain — would no longer be recognised 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 UK’s Brexit referendum in mid-2016, when the leave vote wiped out a third of EasyJet’s market value.

Along with Irish discounter Ryanair, EasyJet has 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.

In July, UK transport minister Chris Grayling indicated that an agreement that would allow flights to continue would be reached even without a wider accord with the bloc.

With Neil Callanan.