Iata director general Willie Walsh has hailed the UK roadmap for lifting lockdown and restarting travel as “positive”, saying he expects “sensible recommendations” from the Global Travel Taskforce.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the taskforce would report “later this week” and Walsh said: “What the UK is doing, setting out a roadmap with dates and targets, is positive.”
Walsh said he “was disappointed listening to the PM on Monday that he did not announce a restart of travel on May 17”. But he insisted: “I do expect some sensible recommendations from the taskforce.”
The former chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), Walsh took over as Iata chief from Alexandre de Juniac on April 1.
He said: “I’m optimistic the report will be positive and we’ll see a sensible system introduced.”
But Walsh added: “We want to see some certainty. We don’t want people to be travelling somewhere and then find restrictions changed.
“There has to be a lead in time for changes without sudden shifts in policies and behaviour.”
Walsh argued people should be able to take holidays abroad this summer saying: “The accelerating vaccine roll out is one reason we can be positive. I’m optimistic about people being able to take a summer holiday.”
He also expressed optimism about UK-US flights restarting. Walsh said: “Relations between the US and UK are strong and it would be natural for both governments to want to see traffic restored as soon as possible.
“The pace of the vaccination roll-out gives reason to be optimistic for a restart in the near future.”
But Walsh hit out at Heathrow Airport which he accused of attempting to squeeze airlines to recoup income lost due to the crisis.
He argued: “The industry is not ready to stand on its own feet at the moment, not at an industry level. I would expect governments to recognise this.
“We need to be careful others don’t exploit airlines by trying to recover their losses. Heathrow has demonstrated they would like to recover money they have lost. We would expect the regulator to take a tough view of that.
“We will be aggressive in opposing this and I would expect regulators and governments to step in.”
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