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WTTC 2013: Walsh renews criticism of UK government

WTTC 2013: Walsh renews criticism of UK government Walsh was speaking at the WTTC Global Summit in Abu Dhabi

International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh has emphasised the need for the UK government to support the aviation sector in the country.

Speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit in Abu Dhabi, Walsh said IAG was not seeking financial support, but merely for the government to “get out of the way”.

“Governments need to understand they must reduce the impact on aviation.

“This can be through the reduction of regressive taxation on our industry, such as Air Passenger Duty, or by allowing the development of suitable infrastructure,” Walsh explained.

He was quick to contrast the situation in the UK with that of Abu Dhabi, where flag-carrier Etihad Airways has seen remarkable growth over the past decade.

He said: “The conditions here in Abu Dhabi have allowed the carrier to develop, but we are able to compete financially, we are confident in our model.”

Walsh added he would not be “banging his head against the wall” with regard to development at London Heathrow Airport, as no political solution was possible at this time.

Instead IAG would seek to expand its operations at London Gatwick and London City airports.

IAG is also in negotiations to acquire Spanish low-cost carrier Veuling.

Walsh, centre, was joined by Etihad chief executive James Hogan, left, and IATA secretary general, Tony Tyler

Visa Issue

In remarks following the Summit, Walsh also pointed to a problem with visa access to the UK, arguing other destinations would likely launch retaliatory regulations if it was not made easier to get into the country.

“Britain needs to realise it is losing ground, and quite quickly.

“If the government does not move, others will likely retaliate, which is quite understandable.

“I see a lot of concern, particularly from emerging markets, that it is tough to do business in the UK.”