A senior British Airways figure has declared a need to “sound the alarm” about the damage government policy is doing to UK business.

BA UK head of sales Richard Tams called for a relaxation of visa controls, the scrapping of Air Passenger Duty and removal of a threat to ban night flights into Heathrow when he addressed the Guild of Travel Management Companies.

He told the annual GTMC conference in Barcelona on Sunday the combination of these issues “threatens the pre-eminence of the UK as a global trading centre”.

Tams said: “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 [on airport capacity] should look at this. It is not appropriate to do anything before the commission has reported.”

On border controls, Tams pointed out 50 nationalities require transit visas simply to pass through Heathrow while visitors from 120 countries require visas to visit the UK. “Both require a personal visit to a consular office,” he said.

“For a Chinese traveller to fly from Peking to Rio via London costs £51 for a transit visa.”

Tams pointed out: “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.”

JP Morgan managing director of government relations Richard Kaye said the government “needs to sort out” border control queues and the time flights spend circling Heathrow.

Kaye said: “The UK is competing with countries that don’t have the same constraints. The UK is still a good place to do business, but fix these things.”