While a decision to let air passenger duty on long-haul flights rise in line with inflation has drawn the ire of the aviation sector in the UK, there has been a cautious welcome for a move to expand the use of e-passport gates.
From next summer e-passport gates in the UK will be open to citizens from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan with the aim of reduce queues and waiting times.
Responding to the decision, UKinbound chairman Mark McVay said: “We are pleased that the budget includes several policies that will have a positive impact on the UK’s tourism industry.
“These include the welcome introduction of e-gates for more of our international visitors, improvement of transport links in our cities and digital connectivity in rural areas and funding to help restore and sustain our historic high streets.”
BAR UK said the decision could alleviate congestion at airports.
A statement added: “This summer, far too many visitors to the UK experienced appalling immigration queues and these plans should go some way to reducing queues on the manned desks.
“Airlines look forward working with the Home Office and Border Force on the implementation details to ensure that the new measures can be implemented effectively and as quickly as possible.”
IAG – owner of British Airways – warned the decision must be backed by technological improvement.
“We welcome the extension of e-passport gates to other countries, but this will only be effective in reducing queues if all e-gates are opened to accommodate the volume of passengers,” the airline group said.
Finally, Virgin Atlantic said is was an important first step.
A spokesperson said: “Virgin Atlantic welcomes the announcement that citizens from the UK’s most trusted security partners, including the United States and Australia, will be able to use e-gates at UK airports.
“This is an important first step in reducing waiting times for our customers when visiting the UK, ensuring they receive the welcome they deserve.
“With Christmas just around the corner, and another busy summer expected next year, the government must act quickly to minimise disruption to those visiting the UK.”