The boss of Iata has told MPs that the UK’s Covid travel requirements had been “excessive for too long” and there was “no justification” to continue requiring tests.
Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, told the transport select committee: “The recovery is definitely being hampered by the bureaucracy associated with UK travel, where a lot of other countries have simplified their procedures.
“Where we see restrictions relaxed and removed there is an immediate response in terms of passenger demand.”
He said the UK recovery has “definitely lagged” behind other markets in Europe – it used to be the top market but is now fourth, losing ground to Germany, France, Spain and other countries.
“The cost of testing has suppressed demand in the UK, much more so than in other European countries,” he said.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators’ Association, agreed, saying that the need for testing and forms was “more stringent and onerous” in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, and was “certainly impacting on travel”.
She said that European airports had been working at 60% or 70% of their capacity over the summer but in the UK they “struggled to get above the low double-digit percentages”.
Furthermore, she criticised the government’s traffic light system, saying it was “very difficult to understand the criteria the government was using”.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, also criticised the traffic light system and told MPs that the country had a “lost summer”.
“The frustration was that we had this huge pent-up demand and we were seeing other countries around Europe and further afield opening up a lot quicker than the UK and we could not see the justification for that based on the data that we were seeing,” he said.