Blog: Legal Loophole: The UK Airlines Leasing European Aircraft To Avoid Brexit-Related Recruitment Issues – Simple Flying

Legal Loophole: The UK Airlines Leasing European Aircraft To Avoid Brexit-Related Recruitment Issues

UK airlines have turned to wet leasing instead of using stored aircraft, to get around Brexit related issues.

British Airways Boeing 777 landing at LAX
Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying

Several airlines from the UK have been leasing European aircraft to get around new rules set in place following ‘Brexit’ (the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union).

Why are airlines from the UK leasing European-owned aircraft?

Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union in 2020, commonly known as ‘Brexit,’ EU staff working on aircraft registered in the UK must hold a British visa. Because of this requirement, airlines have been leasing European aircraft from other airlines to get around the British visa rule. UK airlines leasing aircraft registered in the EU can staff the flights with a crew of EU residents, bypassing the requirement for a British visa.

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British Airways is wet leasing aircraft from Finnair to get around the United Kingdom work laws. Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying

British Airways, easyJet, and Tui are some of the carriers which have employed the strategy of wet leasing aircraft from other European carriers. Although British Airways has several aircraft in storage, it has leased aircraft from codeshare partners Iberia (from Spain) and Finnair (from Finland). easyJet and Tui have leased aircraft operated by SmartLynx from Latvia. Tui has also leased two aircraft from Lithuanian airline Avion Express.

What is wet leasing?

There are two types of aircraft leases, wet and dry leases. Wet leasing is a practice not frequently employed by airlines worldwide because it requires the lessor to provide a crew to operate the aircraft. The entire flight experience is in the hands of the leasing company.

Wet leasing can also cause problems for airlines, as passengers may feel that they have been deceived when booking a ticket on one airline but flying on an aircraft with another airline’s livery staffed by a different crew. In the past, Norwegian had to wet lease several aircraft and several Simple Flying readers asked if it was possible to get a refund due to not having the expected experience.

British Airways is also wet leasing aircraft from Iberia, despite having aircraft in storage. Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying

Whether British Airways, easyJet, and Tui are indicating that certain flights will be operated by different airlines is currently unknown. But in theory, most flights should operate as any other codeshare flight.

Is Brexit the cause of UK airline staffing shortages?

easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren believes that Brexit is to blame for massive staff shortages at airports throughout the UK. He states that easyJet has rejected up to 40% of applications from EU nationals because of Brexit. Lundgren said that the airline has rejected around 8,000 applications, as applicants do not have permission to work in the UK.

“The pool of people is smaller, it’s just maths. We have had to turn down a huge number of EU nationals because of Brexit. Pre-pandemic we would have turned down 2-2.5% because of nationality issues. Now it’s 35-40%.” – Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet

Yesterday, authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport had to ask airlines that operate at Terminals 2 and 3 to cancel 10% of their schedules because of baggage handling problems. But staffing shortages are not isolated to the UK. Airports throughout Europe are having to place caps on the number of passengers allowed to transit through each day. Last week, non-EU customers on Norse Atlantic’s inaugural flight from New York to Oslo were forced to wait two and a half hours to clear customs and immigration.

Have you experienced troubles at an airport in Europe recently? Tell us your experience by leaving a comment below.

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