The new director-general of the International Air Transport Association, Willie Walsh, has called out the organisations “profiteering” off government requirements for COVID-19 testing upon travelling to Britain.
The former British Airways chief executive, who took over the top spot at the IATA from Alexandre de Juniac earlier this month, said that airlines are suffering due to the “scam” that is post-flight self COVID-19 testing.
“If you fly to the UK for three days … you’ve got to buy a package in advance to do a test on day two and day eight, even though you won’t be there until the eighth,” Walsh said.
He noted in particular that oftentimes, the cost of these COVID-19 test packages for recent travellers can exceed the cost of their short-haul airline flights, at around £100 ($140).
The new IATA boss stated that the absurd costs of the tests are clearly resulting in manufacturers “profiteering” off travellers desperate to return to the skies.
“This is nonsense. It’s a scam, let’s call it what it is,” he said, and warned that “we can’t have a situation where only the wealthy are in a position to travel”.
“Nobody will object to having systems in place to protect health and making sure that people can travel safely. But everybody should object when we see evidence of people being ripped off.”
Walsh was confirmed as the successor of de Juniac in November 2020, following de Juniac’s retirement announcement, however was officially appointed to the role earlier this month.
Walsh has a long career in aviation, having started out as a cadet pilot for Aer Lingus in 1979, and worked his way up to become CEO of the Irish flag carrier in 2001.
He served as the CEO of British Airways from 2005 to 2011, and then took the top spot at the then recently-formed BA parent company International Airlines Group until his retirement in September 2020.
Walsh also served on the IATA Board of Governors for almost 13 years between 2005 to 2018, including serving as chair (2016-2017).
“My goal is to ensure that IATA is a forceful voice supporting the success of global air transport,” Walsh said of his appointment.
“We will work with supporters and critics alike to deliver on our commitments to an environmentally sustainable airline industry.
“It’s my job to make sure that governments, which rely on the economic and social benefits our industry generates, also understand the policies we need to deliver those benefits.”