13 May 2024

Heathrow accuses Government of ‘curtailing UK’s global connectivity’

13 May 2024

Heathrow Airport has accused the Government of “curtailing the UK’s global connectivity”.

The west London airport criticised measures such as introducing a £10 fee for some transiting passengers and the refusal to resume tax-free shopping for international visitors.

The Government launched the electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme in November 2023 for people entering or transiting through the UK without legal residence or a visa.

We need the Government to implement policies that support UK aviation’s ability to compete globally

ETAs, which cost £10, are currently only required for nationals of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The programme is scheduled to be extended to include the European Union, the European Economic Area and Swiss nationals in early 2025, and the rest of the world this autumn.

Meanwhile the Government has also refused calls to reverse the 2020 decision to end tax-free shopping for inbound visitors.

Heathrow said in a statement: “Current Government policy is curtailing the UK’s global connectivity.

“Initiatives like the introduction of unnecessary visas for transiting passengers, the absence of tax-free shopping and the recently proposed hike in business rates underscore the need for ministers to take a cross-government approach to policymaking that supports UK aviation’s global competitiveness.”

Heathrow published figures showing 6.7 million passengers travelled through the airport in April, a 4.8% rise on the total of 6.4 million during the same month last year.

Heathrow said this means it is “on track” for its busiest year for passenger numbers.

Double-digit year-on-year percentage growth in passengers was recorded last month for routes connecting Heathrow with the rest of the UK as well as the Asia/Pacific and Middle East regions.

Friday April 19 was Heathrow’s busiest day for flights since October 2019, with 1,337 taking off or landing.

Heathrow chief executive Thomas Woldbye said: “It takes an extraordinary team to deliver this strong performance and I’m proud of what everyone across the airport has achieved so far this year.

“As we continue to grow, our focus is on making Heathrow fit for the future, delivering reliable journeys for all our customers today and getting ready for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

“But to unlock our full potential to help grow the country’s economy, we need the Government to implement policies that support UK aviation’s ability to compete globally, and thus make the UK more competitive overall.”

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