Heathrow urges government to drop ETA scheme for transit passengers – Business Traveller

Heathrow Airport says the recently introduced Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme is impacting transit figures, and is urging the government to take action “to level the playing field”.

The phased roll out of the ETA scheme was launched in November for Qatari citizens, requiring travellers to apply for the digital documentation ahead of travel and pay a £10 fee.

The requirement applies to passengers either travelling to or transiting through the UK.

Heathrow said that in the first four months of the scheme being in place it had seen 19,000 fewer transit passengers from Qatar, “with the transfer route recording its lowest monthly proportions for over ten years each month since the implementation of ETAs”.

The airport said that while it supports “the overall rationale” behind the scheme, applying it to airside transit passengers “will put UK airports at a competitive disadvantage compared to EU hubs”.

“This is a huge blow to UK competitiveness as many long-haul routes, which are highly important to the UK’s economy, exports and wider connectivity, rely on transit passengers,” the airport continued.

“With more connecting passengers expected to choose other hubs as the scheme expands, Minsters need to take action to remove this measure.”

ETA has since been expanded to travellers from Jordan and GCC countries – for more information on the scheme, see our Smart Traveller feature:

Smart Traveller: Our guide to the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

Heathrow’s warning comes as the airport reported record traffic for the month of March, with just over 6.7 million people travelling through the hub. The figure was up 8 per cent on March 2023, and is the second consecutive month reporting record numbers.

The airport also said that Good Friday was its busiest ever direct departure day, with 118,000 people beginning their journey at Heathrow.

Heathrow is targeting 81.4 million passengers in 2024, a figure which would surpass the airport’s previous record annual passenger numbers of 80.9 million passengers set in 2019.

Heathrow targets 81.4 million passengers in 2024

Commenting on the news Heathrow’s CEO Thomas Woldbye said:

“We’re on a journey to be an extraordinary airport fit for the future and it’s great to see the progress we’re making this year with smooth journeys for a record number of passengers choosing Heathrow.

“But to keep up the momentum the government needs to exempt airside transit passengers from the ETA scheme to avoid encouraging passengers to spend and do business elsewhere. We need to level the playing field, so the UK aviation industry continues to be world-class.”

heathrow.com



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