BA’s Walsh hits out at lack of slots for China routes

British Airways is expected to be serving eight to 10 Chinese cities within the next decade.

The prediction came from Willie Walsh, chief executive of parent company International Airlines Group, while on a trip to China to encourage business with the UK.

The new routes would be in addition to existing services to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

But he said the problem that the airline faces is not Chinese regulation, but the lack of available slots at Heathrow.

Walsh said the government had failed to make it easy for foreign business travellers to obtain visas and ensure smooth entry into the UK.

“There is no point in David Cameron coming here [to China] or George Osborne saying Britain is open for business if you are going to make it impossible for Chinese businessmen to go to the UK,” he said.

“I have people sending me emails saying they know I am not responsible for controlling the border, but that something has to be done because they are not coming back to the UK.”

Walsh, quoted by the Daily Telegraph, said Asian businessmen are likely to be particularly appalled to be greeted with “three hours of waiting in a corridor” when the top-five airports for smooth immigration are all in Asia: in Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Beijing respectively.

“Who would think that it is easier to get into China than into the UK?” he asked. “But I have been flying into Beijing every three to four months and I have never seen a queue. The UK has the facilities, but they are not being manned. It is possible to solve this if they decide it is important.”

Walsh also said Chinese businessmen had complained about complex and expensive entry visas, and had said they preferred doing business in Europe.

“A visa to the Schengen area gives you access to 25 European countries and is two-thirds of the price. The Chinese are asking why they should put up with the hassle of coming to the UK when other countries are more welcoming,” he said.

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