Airport urges ministers to drop e-visa for transit passengers as numbers drop


Forcing airline transit passengers to join a scheme that makes visitors to the UK pay a £10 fee is putting the country’s hub airports at a “competitive disadvantage”, Heathrow has said.

An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is a new requirement for passengers entering Britain without a visa. It costs £10 and applicants must provide their biographic, biometric and contact details, and answer “suitability questions”.

But it is also being applied to transit passengers who are connecting in UK airports, even when they are passing through without stopping.

ETAs began in November 2023 and are currently being enforced for nationals of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

They will be extended to include anyone from the European Union, the European Economic Area and Swiss nationals in early 2025, and the rest of the world this autumn.

Heathrow said in a statement that it supports the “overall rationale” behind ETAs for passengers arriving in Britain, but “applying them to airside transit passengers will put UK airports at a competitive disadvantage compared to EU hubs”.

It went on: “We are already seeing an impact. In the first four months of ETAs being in place, 19,000 fewer transit passengers travelled from Qatar, with the transfer route recording its lowest monthly proportions for over 10 years each month since the implementation of ETAs.

“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.

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

Including transit airline passengers in a scheme making visitors to the UK pay a £10 fee is putting the country’s airports at a “competitive disadvantage’, Heathrow has claimed (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Archive)

The Home Office says ETAs “cement the UK as a world leader in border security”.

Heathrow chief executive 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 said 6.7 million passengers travelled through the airport in March.

That is up 8% from 6.2 million during March last year, and is the highest total it has recorded for that month.

The Asia-Pacific market saw the largest year-on-year rise in percentage terms, at 18%.



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