The boss of the International Air Transport Association has claimed that international travel is not increasing the UK’s Covid-19 risk.
Willie Walsh, Iata director-general, said: “In terms of day-to-day life, the UK is far more pragmatic in managing Covid-19 than many other states.
“But its approach to travel continues to focus on restrictions which cannot be justified based on risk.
“Over the period from February to August, the PCR test positivity rate of arriving passengers to the UK was 1% and the positivity rate from testing the general population was 7%.
“So we can confidently say that travel is not increasing the UK’s Covid-19 risk.”
Speaking at the UK Aviation Club, he also warned that travel restrictions and expensive PCR testing mean that the UK had failed to capitalise on its early start in Covid-19 vaccinations and slipped behind other European countries.
He welcomed cuts to the number of red list countries and an end to day-2 PCR tests for vaccinated passengers – but warned that problems remain, principally with the new post-arrival antigen test.
He also urged the UK to lead with automated digital solutions to take the burden off airlines.
“Manual paper checks by airlines are unsustainable as volumes come back. We need to automate the process…airlines are not your border guards,” said Walsh.
The slow UK recovery risks being derailed by a proposed 90% hike in charges at Heathrow, which could add £100 to the cost of an average family’s holiday, he warned.
“It’s time for Heathrow’s shareholders to step up. They have enjoyed steady returns for years. Instead of expecting the travelling public to be covering excessive returns, it’s time for them to invest,” former British Airways boss Walsh said.
“All eyes will be on the CAA to ensure they are doing their job in protecting the consumer by pushing back on the airport’s outrageous behaviour.”
Commenting on the aviation sector’s pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, he said: “Net zero is a bold, audacious commitment. Achieving it needs all stakeholders –including governments – to play their part,” said Walsh.