British Airways owner calls on Government to be ‘ambitious’ on travel corridors

Luis Gallego, boss of IAG, said airlines were ready to fly but Government action was needed to make it happen.

British Airways aircraft
British Airways aircraft

The UK Government must act with ambition and announce travel corridors as soon as possible to help the travel industry revive, according to the boss of British Airways owner IAG.

Chief executive Luis Gallego added: “We consider now is the time to start travelling again.

“We believe that the Government needs to be a bit ambitious in getting global travel back on track and bring the benefits of all the efforts that the Government and people have done with the vaccination rollout.

“I think they need to recognise that people who are vaccinated or have been tested can travel without restrictions.”

His comments come as the business revealed it continued to rack up huge losses in the first three months of the year.

Bosses at the airline, which also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia, said the firm sunk to a pre-tax loss of 1.22 billion euros (£1.1 billion) in the first three months of the year.

Passenger numbers remain at record low levels due to the pandemic, at just 19.6% of the pre-Covid levels in 2019 and the second quarter of the year is at just 25% due to continued uncertainty.

IAG remains financially stable, bosses added, with a new 1.2 billion euro (£1 billion) bond heavily oversubscribed and a new three year 1.76 billion dollar (£1.27 billion) credit facility agreed with lenders but future cash raises could be needed.

Cargo-only flights increased from 969 in the final quarter of 2020 to 1,306 in the first three months of the year.

Mr Gallego added: “We’re ready to fly, but Government action is needed through four key measures:

“Travel corridors without restrictions between countries with successful vaccination rollouts and effective testing such us the UK and the US.

“Affordable, simple and proportionate testing to replace quarantine and costly, multi-layered testing.

“Well-staffed borders using contactless technology including e-gates to ensure a safe, smooth flow of people and frictionless travel.

“Digital passes for testing and vaccination documentation to facilitate international travel.”

Current Covid rules in England say that non-essential travel can resume on May 17 and an announcement on international travel is expected within days.

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