Richard Tams, head of sales at UK-based airline, British Airways, has spoken out against the British government’s aviation policy while addressing the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) in Barcelona.
Warning that the policy was damaging British business by threatening the pre-eminence of the UK as a global trading centre, Tams launched a three-pronged attack on the UK’s strict visa controls, high rates of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and the threat of a ban on night flights at Heathrow.
Speaking on the night flight ban, Tams told the assembly, ‘The government has an appetite to reduce night flights into Heathrow. It has serious implications and we are deeply concerned. These early morning arrivals from important destinations allow Heathrow to operate as a hub by arriving in time for connecting flights. The London Assembly supports a ban. BA argues the Davies Commission (regarding airport capacity) should look at this. It is not appropriate to do anything before the commission has reported.’
With regards to visa requirements, Tams is concerned that 50 nationalities require transit visas even if they are only passing through Heathrow, and to visit the UK, nationals from 120 countries have to acquire a full visa. He pointed out that both of these scenarios, ‘require a personal visit to a consular office,’ and that a Chinese traveller flying from Peking to Rio via London is required to pay £51 for a transit visa.
He added that ‘The requirements are waived for visa holders for the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but not for Schengen-visa holders. We rely on transit passengers at Heathrow. We want the system simplified and transit visas waived for those holding visas from trusted countries.’