UK government is damaging aviation industry, warns BA boss Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

Mr Walsh ratcheted up his criticism of the Coalition at the aviation industry’s global summit in Beijing reports The Telegraph.

The head of International Airlines Group, British Airways’ parent company, accused David Cameron’s ministers of “doing everything they can to suppress and damage” aviation.

“They are top of the list of Governments who don’t get it.

“They are out of touch with the opportunities which exist for aviation.”

It was the latest broadside by Mr Walsh who was amongst the Government’s fiercest critics over the crisis in airport border queues last month.

Mr Walsh contrasted the Government’s approach to aviation with countries – such as the United Arab Emirates – who have what he described as more “progressive” stance towards the industry.

He accused the Government of taking aviation for granted and the contribution it made to the economy.

Mr Walsh ridiculed David Cameron for flying around the world praising Rolls Royce engines, while failing to remember that most were used by British aircraft.
In common with other airline bosses, he is incensed by the imposition of Air Passenger Duty, which has left passengers using British airports paying the highest aviation taxes in the world.

He also rounded on the Government for its failure to tackle the shortage of runway capacity in London and the South East.

Mr Walsh remained dismissive of suggestions that a new airport could be built on the Thames Estuary.

The project – dubbed Boris Island because of the backing given by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson – would fail because airlines would not use it.

He also criticised the Government over its approach to issuing visas to Chinese tourists – potentially one of the biggest growth markets.

Mr Walsh condemned the requirement for the Chinese to have a separate British visa on top of one for visiting the other European Union nations.

The issue of visas has emerged as a particularly sensitive one, with airlines and tourism chiefs fearing that Britain’s strict rules is stifling growth.