The chief executive of a leading budget airline has challenged the pro-European Union (EU) campaign’s suggestion that cheap fares for flights are dependent on membership of the politico-trading bloc.
Failing to understand the distinction between causation and correlation, Prime Minister David Cameron recently told workers at BAE Systems in Lancashire that voting for Brexit would put cheap fares in jeopardy, explaining:
“I think there are some quite retail points we should focus on. Since we joined the EU, the cost of flights, the cost of holidays, has come right down. That’s something we benefit from.”
Making the link between cheap fares and EU membership explicit, he also told the House of Commons:
“If people wondering about Britain’s relationship with Europe want to see some tangible consumer benefits rather than some of the arcane things we talk about in this House, the Open Skies policy, the cut in airfares, the availability of cheap air travel, has been one of the biggest changes in 20 years.”
Backing up the Prime Minister, budget airline Easyjet has also warned that Brexit could lead to the end of low-cost international travel. However, Bjorn Kjos — Chief Executive of Europe’s third largest budget airline, Norwegian Air — has refuted the Remain campaign’s Project Fear strategy with regards to cheap fares.
Speaking to ITV News Mr. Kjos pointed out that his company, which carried 26 million passengers last year, is “providing low fares to everybody… whether you are in the EU or not that’s not the problem.”
Furthermore, in Mr. Kjos’s view cheap fares would not materially increase if the UK votes to leave the EU, he believes the benefits on that front which existing EU membership has already delivered are permanent.
Brexit would not even affect Norwegian Air’s expansion plans, which focus on its 700 pilots and crew working at Gatwick Airport as their main UK base. The company is aiming to beef up its fleet of Gatwick-based long distance Dreamliner aircraft from 2 to 50.
Asked specifically whether Norwegian Air would employ fewer people in a post-Brexit Britain, Mr. Kjos replied:
“No, no. I mean I have 30 Dreamliners coming in here. I need at least 50.”