SPAIN is facing a flightmare post-Brexit as British-owned Iberia could lose its right to operate in the EU if the UK fails to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.
It comes after the European Commission said on Wednesday that any airline which is majority owned by a country outside the EU will not be able to operate within Europe in the case of a no-deal.
Iberia is owned by London-based International Airline Group (IAG), which is the parent group of British Airways and Vueling, meaning it could lose its licence after March 29 next year.
Iberia, however, seems unmoved by the announcement, saying it is negotiating with EU authorities and that it had the support of the Spanish government.
It did not specify whether a solution or plan was being worked towards.
It comes as a no-deal is looking ever more likely with the UK government spending billions in preparation.
The likes of Ryanair and easyJet have announced they will transfer control to an entity or person in Europe to pass the 51% EU ownership threshold.
Iberia, which is controlled by the British-owned IAG, has not made a similar announcement.
Iberia has tried to claim it is Spanish by saying it holds shareholder meetings and has its offices and infrastructure in Madrid, but EU sources say this does not make it Spanish as the IAG in London still has the final word on its decisions.
Airlines that do not meet EU conditions may still be able to fly within Europe after Brexit, however, as the decision to revoke Iberia’s license falls to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which may agree to extend the airline’s licence.
But this guarantees nothing, as a diplomatic source explains: “The EASA would extend the license in application of an EU norm and this means its decision would be subject to the supervision of the European Commission and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”
They added that Iberia’s European competitors are likely to dispute the airline’s licence on this basis to gain greater control of the European market.
Flights to UK unaffected
The European Commission has agreed to a 12-month truce period for flights between the UK and EU member states.
It means Iberia will still be able to fly from Spain and Britain and vice versa even if it is not majority owned by a company in Europe.