easyJet (U2, London Luton) expects to receive a British air operator's certificate (AOC) for its new unit, easyJet UK (U2, London Luton), "in the coming weeks", Chairman John Barton said during the Annual General Meeting on February 8.

The LCC is setting up its fourth unit in addition to easyJet Switzerland and Vienna-based easyJet Europe as a precautionary measure against potential route restrictions after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in March 2019.

"As part of establishing easyJet's post Brexit structure, we are putting in place a stand-alone UK AOC, easyJet UK, which will operate our UK based aircraft. We are making good progress and expect the UK CAA to grant the AOC in the coming weeks. As part of this process, the Department for Transport has this week informed the CAA that easyJet UK can be granted this AOC as a British airline. This status will be maintained after the UK leaves the EU", Barton explained.

Although easyJet itself is registered in the UK and holds a British AOC, the company aims to exceed the 50% EU-ownership threshold, which would grant it a status of an EU-owned airline even after the UK leaves the bloc. This, in turn, would allow easyJet to continue operations within the EU, which are restricted to carriers owned and controlled by the bloc's citizens.

"We begin from a position of strength with close to 50% of our shares already held in the hands of EEA (non-UK) nationals and [Chief Financial Officer] Andrew Findlay and his team have already begun a more active investor relations programme across Europe with the intention of increasing EEA (non-UK) ownership above 50% prior to the UK's exit from the EU", Barton added.

easyJet UK, in turn, would retain a status of a British airline, which would allow it to continue operations in the UK regarding of the regulatory framework after the Brexit.

According to the ch-aviation capacity module, easyJet currently operates 974 weekly domestic flights in the UK, which is around a tenth of its whole network.

Other leading European LCCs have adopted a similar approach to the uncertainty surrounding the terms of the Brexit. Both Ryanair and Wizz Air applied for British AOCs last year with Ryanair UK and Wizz Air UK units, respectively.

Currently, all air traffic between the UK and the rest of the European Union, as well as some third countries including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and the Balkan countries, is fully liberalised under the framework of the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA), with market access open to all carries owned and controlled by citizens of the bloc regardless of the country of registration. However, as the negotiations of the Brexit protract, it is unclear what legal regime will govern the UK-EU traffic after March 29, 2019. If the UK leaves the ECAA, it will likely need to negotiate and ratify a new air traffic agreement with the whole bloc.