Former British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has attacked the British government over its travel restrictions linked to Covid-19 and the high levels of taxes on air passengers.
Mr Walsh – who is now managing director of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) – told MPs on the transport select committee: âThe recovery is hampered by the bureaucracy associated with travel to the UK.
âThe UK has definitely fallen behind in the recovery. The UK lost ground against 38 of the 40 other Eurocontrol countries.
Right now, the UK has some of the strictest coronavirus rules in Europe, with fully vaccinated incoming passengers having to be tested within two days of arrival.
“There is no justification for the continued use of these tests based on the data,” Mr. Walsh said.
At the same session, Karen Dee – CEO of the Airport Operators’ Association – criticized the âtraffic lightâ system that governed international travel during the summer.
âIt was very difficult to understand the criteria the government was using,â she said.
âWe have lost a lot more than some of our European competitors. “
Tim Alderslade, Managing Director of Airlines UK, said: âWe had this ridiculously complicated traffic light system that changed with a week’s notice.
âWe have seen France move to a random level of its own. “
Earlier this month, Health Secretary Sajid Javid removed the remaining seven countries from the “red list” – but said it remained in place.
“The red list and the quarantine system remain essential to protect our borders and as we have said, we will not hesitate to take action by adding countries to the red list if necessary,” he said. .
Willie Walsh also criticized the complexity of the British passenger tracking form that every arrival in the UK must complete.
“I seriously doubt anyone is watching it,” he said.
Mr Walsh gave the example of a trip he made to the UK from Iata’s European headquarters in Geneva, when he said he would be leaving after a brief visit.
âI was contacted a few days after leaving the UK. Why ask the questions if you are not going to use it? “
The Iata boss has also added to calls for certification of under-16 vaccinations in the UK.
âThe requirement in many countries is to provide proof [of vaccination] when you are over 12 years old.
âWe raised this issue. We have had no constructive response.
âIt’s a problem and it will become a bigger problem. “
Willie Walsh extended his criticism to Air Passenger Duty (APD), which he described as “a tax on doing business in the UK”.
âAPD should be deleted,â he said. âIt’s just an exercise in increasing revenue by the Exchequer.
“All it does is make the airplane operation less efficient because you have fewer people on board.”
In a bid to encourage domestic aviation, the Chancellor announced that ODA on domestic flights would be halved from Â£ 13 to Â£ 6.50 from April 2023.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to ensuring that all passengers can make the safest possible journey to the UK.
âOur top priority is to protect the safety and health of the public, and we will not compromise to ensure that passengers comply with the health measures necessary to ensure the safety of all of us.
âDay 2 testing allows the UK Health Security Agency to monitor which variants, if any, are being introduced into the UK.
âWe are exploring ways to enable children between the ages of 12 and 15 to demonstrate their immunization status on international travel. “