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Iata chief voices ‘optimism’ over travel restrictions being dropped by half-term

Iata chief Willie Walsh is “optimistic” about the prospect of all travel restrictions being dropped by half-term.

He said he “genuinely believes” there is a real prospect of a holiday period for families in February.

But the former boss of IAG and British Airways branded the government’s handling generally of travel during the pandemic as “very poor”.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari’s LBC breakfast radio programme on Tuesday, Walsh hit out at the cost and accessibility of travel testing while no specific aid for the airline industry was forthcoming.

“I think the restrictions that were put in place were unnecessary, the cost of PCRs and the testing regime was a disgrace, and I think we do have to look into what was going on behind the scenes there, because people were definitely being ripped off, and I think consumers have suffered really badly as a result of poor handling by the British government,” he said.

The Iata director general forecast that it will take UK until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic travel levels, but Heathrow will get back to that level “much quicker than that” and some countries will see recovery by next year.

He called for greater “flexibility” over the rules on airport slots, saying “there’s good reason to look into this” and it’s “bad news for the environment” when aircraft fly empty or near empty

Walsh cautiously backed some airlines’ mandatory vaccination policies for crew, but warned “there are many parts of the world where they just can’t get access to vaccines”.

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