Contingency agreements to maintain basic air connectivity between the UK and the European Union are set to be extended by seven months as uncertainty remains over the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
The contingency was put in place earlier this year in order to ensure that essential transport connections for aviation remained in place until 30 March 2020.
But the UK's subsequent delay of its Brexit withdrawal from the EU to 31 October 2019 has prompted an amendment to the agreement.
"The short time remaining and the political situation in the UK have increased the risk that the UK will withdraw on [31 October] without [a post-Brexit] agreement," says the Commission in a 4 September communication.
It says there should be no assumption that the UK will extend the Brexit deadline, or that such an extension would be agreed before 31 October, and that final preparations must continue for a UK withdrawal – without a post-Brexit deal – from 1 November.
The previous contingency agreement had been aligned to the IATA winter season for 2019-20 and, if the UK withdraws on 31 October, it would only apply for less than half of the originally-envisaged period.
Under the revised contingency proposal the basic connectivity would continue to apply for the IATA summer 2020 season, and the amended agreement would expire on 24 October 2020.
It would include a specific mechanism for EU airlines to comply with EU majority ownership requirements after the UK withdrawal.
"National authorities have now finalised the examination of the plans submitted by affected airlines and informed the airlines concerned and the Commission of the positive results of their assessment," the Commission says.
It adds that it has contacted the responsible national authorities and, in some instances, "signalled doubts" on whether submitted plans would ensure compliance with EU requirements.
Affected airlines must meet full compliance with ownership requirements by 30 April 2020 under the proposed revision of the contingency agreement.