UK pilots urge government to end post-Brexit “license inequality”

The open letter calls for immediate action amid “real-life impacts” on pilots who are struggling to find work 

More than 3,500 UK-based pilots have written to the government to highlight the problems relating to the validity of their licenses following Brexit. 

According to the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), the new state of play has actively prevented UK pilots, including those made redundant due to Covid-19, from securing UK jobs. 

Photo: MAG

The issue stems from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, after which, pilots with UK licenses are no longer able to fly EU registered aircraft – including those based at British airports – without a lengthy and expensive license conversion. 

This, BALPA says, is an active barrier to UK pilots being offered employment. 

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

Photo: Heathrow Airport

Brian Strutton, acting BALPA general secretary, 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 need 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 3,544 pilots who signed the letter have added their support to BALPA’s demands which ask the government to immediately start working towards a formal agreement for long-term mutual recognition of licenses. 

And in the short term, that arrangements are made with the European Commission for an urgent short-term reciprocal arrangement for the validation of UK-issued licenses “without the need for extensive checks and expensive unnecessary processes” in the same way that the UK CAA provides for EU flight crews.