IAG chief Willie Walsh hits out at visa red tape

Suzie Neuwirth
BRITISH Airways boss Willie Walsh yesterday hit out at the government for failing to set a long-term agenda for economic growth and said Britain’s bureaucratic visa system is putting off Chinese tourists and businesses.

The chief executive of the airline’s parent company International Airlines Group told reporters on board BA’s inaugural flight to Chinese city Chengdu that “Cameron and Osborne…lack a vision for the future”.

He said that the Prime Minister and the chancellor have not shown evidence of visionary leadership and that “they respond to whatever is topical, rather than setting out an overriding strategy for business.”

Walsh said that BA would have launched the London to Chengdu flight route a year ago if it had not been for visa obstacles, due to the UK not being part of the shared European visa scheme for Chinese visitors.

“There’s a perception in China that the UK does not want to see Chinese tourists and businesses,” he said, claiming that Chinese tour operators are bypassing Britain on European tours because of the hassle of applying for two visas.

A source close to Downing Street told City A.M.: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that he wants to boost our trade with China and see the system simplified.

“We’re currently working on that and we’d hope to see some progress soon.”