IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac believes that EU airlines might seek a competitive advantage during the Brexit negotiation process by lobbying to restrict UK carriers' access to the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA).
Speaking at a European Aviation Club event in Brussels today, he identified a "big threat that connectivity could be reduced after Brexit". Such a development would go against IATA's fundamental focus on increasing connectivity, de Juniac says.
"You can imagine, from the European Union side, it's not obvious to grant an open-skies agreement," he says, citing the opportunity this would raise for EU carriers to reduce the competition they face from UK airlines such as EasyJet.
"All the European [airlines] who are facing the competition of EasyJet would like EasyJet not to be there," he adds.
EasyJet has several non-UK bases, including at Milan Malpenesa airport, where it accounts for 30% of flights in February, FlightGlobal schedules data indicates. The Luton-based low-cost carrier is currently working to secure an air operator's certificate from another EU state.
De Juniac stresses, however, that maintaining the UK's connectivity to Europe "would be good news for everyone" and that IATA supports such an outcome.
UK transport minister Chris Grayling said last year that fifth-freedom access for UK carriers is "something I regard as being important for the future". The UK government is yet to outline any detailed plans around the country's future relationship with the ECAA.