Regulatory changes arising from Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) may force EU carrier Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin International) to cease its only UK domestic route between Belfast City and London Heathrow from March 26, 2023.

Since Brexit, the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement requires all UK-based airlines to operate under a UK operating licence, meaning EU carriers such as Aer Lingus are not permitted to operate UK domestic routes.

In a notice to customers, the Irish flag carrier said Brexit was impacting its travel rights within the UK market, particularly on the Belfast-London Heathrow route. “Despite constructive discussions, we have to date been unable to identify a viable solution, and there is now a likelihood that we will cease our Belfast-London Heathrow operation from effect from March 26, 2023. At present, we are in consultation processes with our people and unions as we engage on proposed options,” the airlines said in a statement shared on social media.

Flights up to and including March 25, 2023, would continue as scheduled. Should the route be closed from March 26, the airline would contact affected passengers directly by January 31 2023, to offer an alternative flight or refund.

The statement read that Aer Lingus Regional flights operated by Emerald Airlines (Ireland) (EA, Dublin International) were unaffected by this development.

The Irish News reported the flag carrier had admitted it was likely its base at Belfast City Airport would close next year over the Brexit-related impasse, putting 29 jobs at risk. The airline had commenced consultations with its Belfast staff and the Fórsa trade union to avoid, reduce, or mitigate redundancies.

Aer Lingus has been flying from Belfast City Airport to Heathrow since 2012, five years after first setting up a base at Belfast International.

Starting October 30, 2022, Aer Lingus wet-leased A320-200 capacity from sister carrier British Airways to operate the 3x daily shuttle between Northern Ireland and England. Accordingly, Aer Lingus (UK) became the marketing carrier, although the Irish carrier still operated flights under a temporary ACMI agreement.