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Sat 13 Sep 2014 10:51 AM

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UK visa rules hampering BA expansion in China, says Walsh

Gov’t red tape means airline’s growth in the world’s biggest economy has been hampered

UK visa rules hampering BA expansion in China, says Walsh
Willie Walsh, Cheif Executive, International Airlines Group. (Getty Images)

British Airways’ expansion into the fast-growing Chinese market is being hampered by the UK government’s restrictive visa regime, the CEO of IAG, BA’s parent company, told Arabian Business in an interview.

“We are keen to serve China as it is a focus for us. The problem we have is we have a very restrictive visa regime in the UK. The UK government make it difficult for people to get visas,” Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG and former CEO of BA, told Arabian Business in an interview.

“China is a market everybody wants to serve. We launched Chengdu at the end of last year so we fly Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai… There are a number of other secondary cities we would like to serve too.

“It is the big complaint I get when I travel around the world… the hassle of getting the visa, the cost of getting the visa and the air passenger duty,” he added.

While the visa restrictions on Chinese passengers travelling to London means BA’s organic growth in the world’s second biggest economy has been curtailed, it is able to offer flights to up to 25 Chinese cities through its membership of the Oneworld aviation alliance.

Recent International Air Transport Association (IATA) passenger figures for July showed that international passenger demand rose by 5.5% compared to the same month in 2013. In the Asia Pacific region, airlines benefitted from an improved economic environment, with demand growth slightly above the global average at 5.6 percent.

IATA said the biggest factor affecting demand developments is the response of the Chinese economy to stimulus measures which saw year-on-year GDP growth reach 7.5 percent during the course of the month.

The full exclusive interview with Willie Walsh will be printed in Arabian Business later this month.

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