British Airways Boss Issues Warning On New Tax On Connecting Passengers



  • A new program called Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) implemented by the UK immigration authorities requires visa-exempt travelers to apply for a permit up to three days in advance, causing inconvenience for connecting passengers.
  • British Airways CEO Sean Doyle expressed concerns that the ETA scheme makes connecting through London Heathrow less appealing by adding extra costs and potential delays, posing a risk for business travelers and making carriers like British Airways uncompetitive.
  • Connecting passengers play a crucial role in the success of Heathrow as a mega-hub, allowing London-based travelers to enjoy global connectivity and contributing to the airport’s growth. Passengers traveling to the UK should stay informed about immigration policies to avoid any issues.



A new scheme developed by the British immigration authorities to charge visa-exempt travelers passing through Britain a small fee has begun to send shock waves across the industry. The program, which has been referred to as the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), will require that many travelers apply for a permit up to three days in advance and pay £10.

For most traveling to and from Britain, the ETA is little more than a small fee required to enter the country, and all that is required is for one to apply for the entry document three days in advance. However, for connecting passengers, the new system can prove to be quite a hassle.

Unsurprisingly, UK-based airlines that rely heavily on connecting traffic are not thrilled with the new program. No more clearly were these sentiments echoed than today at the 2023 Airline conference in Westminster by British Airways CEO Sean Doyle.

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What is Doyle’s view?

The challenge for Doyle is that the new restrictions greatly diminish the appeal of connecting through British Airways’ primary London Heathrow (LHR) hub. Not only does connecting through Heathrow now pose an additional cost, but it also comes along with an additional fear.

If a passenger fails to apply for an ETA in time, their journey could be significantly delayed. For business travelers, which is the most critical market demographic for legacy carriers like British Airways, the ETA could simply represent far too high of a risk to consider connecting through Heathrow.

Photo: Jarek Kilian | Shutterstock

Sean Doyle’s sentiments were best relayed when discussed in the context of the massive amount of traffic connecting through Heathrow. According to UK-based media outlet City A.M, nearly 50 % of British Airways’ traffic at Heathrow involves connecting travelers, the majority of whom are connecting onwards to the globe’s other mega hubs such as Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Istanbul Airport (IST). In his address, Doyle had the following words to share:

“[The ETA could] put carriers like British Airways, who rely on connecting traffic, at a competitive disadvantage to European hubs. We need to make sure by stealth we don’t make our industry uncompetitive.”

Other considerations

While many Brits may immediately be surprised that such a hefty amount of traffic flowing through Heathrow never leaves the airport, connecting passengers serves an important purpose. By Heathrow maintaining its status as a mega-hub, London-based travelers are able to enjoy the benefits of connectivity to cities across the globe. Furthermore, without connecting traffic, Heathrow would not have been able to grow as rapidly and efficiently as it has today.

British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Photo: Kevin Hackert | Shutterstock

There are a few new considerations for all passengers traveling to the UK, even if they are not connecting through the airport. While an ETA is relatively easy to obtain, there is no certainty that a document error or some other situation will not arise that could prevent one from entering the country. As a result, passengers traveling to or from the UK must be sure to remain up to date on all applicable immigration policies.

Source: City A.M.

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