Lobbying for a reduction in Air Passenger Duty is a “distraction” for the travel industry which should be focussing on building confidence in the market, according to Steve Heapy.

The Jet2holidays boss was speaking as part of Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Week, when he was asked about a government waiver for the tax – as some, including Abta, have called for.

The operator’s chief executive suggested the industry focus its efforts on implementing a workable testing regime that the government is happy with.

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Heapy said calls for a reduction in air passenger duty were “a bit of a distraction”. He said: “What we need as an industry is to get confidence back confidence, for people to travel and confidence that they’re not going to end up in quarantine when they get back. Those are the two big things that are affecting customers at the moment and I’m not sure 13 quid off the cost of a flight is going to make a big difference.”

Heapy also noted “the government doesn’t have a bottomless pit of money” and that the state has “spent a lot of [taxpayer] money over the last few months”.

“I’m not sure we should be prioritising APD,” he said. “We should be saying, ‘if you’re going to spend the money, spend it on testing, spend it on more people at airports, making sure that people don’t have the virus’.”

Heapy said the government’s Track and Trace System “doesn’t appear to be working very well at all” and was an example of the government putting itself under pressure from a big policy announcement.

“The Civil Service [is] a slow, methodical organisation,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s the best suited to make rapid transformations and put new things in place.

“They need someone with the authority to make decisions. Someone that’s worked in a fast-paced, commercial environment, not someone that’s used to going into 19 focus groups and 200 meetings before something’s done. You sit around the table and say, ‘right, this is what we’re going to do, get on with it’. And then you empower people to put processes in place and get things moving.”

“We should have a decent testing system in place, but it’s one thing making the announcement it’s going to happen. But we’d all be on the government’s case if it didn’t work and things came to a grinding halt.

“And that’s what the government, in my opinion, should be investing money in, not necessarily 13 quid off the cost of a flight. Let’s put the money into having a proper testing system.

Heapy said the travel industry’s “big problem” is a current “lack of confidence”. “People don’t want to commit to booking a holiday,” he said noting that holidaymakers want to avoid the “hassle” of cancellations, being stuck in resort or quarantined on return.