Airport Operators Association: Action on Visas, Air Passenger Duty and Aviation Capacity will help UK succeed in ‘global race’

The Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body for UK airports, has written an ‘open letter’ to members of the new No 10 Policy Board, ahead of a planned brainstorming session today with the Prime Minister, to discuss how the UK can better compete with our international rivals in the ‘global race’. The letter makes several recommendations to the Board, including:

  •     Simplifying the process by which Chinese visitors to the UK are granted a visa, including by working with European partners to set up a ‘one-stop’ shop for biometrics data and visa applications
  •     Reducing the cost of a UK visa so that it is the same level as a Schengen visa
  •     Reducing Air Passenger Duty
  •     Committing to acting on the findings of the Airports Commission when it publishes its Final Report in 2015

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, said:

“The Airport Operators Association supports the Prime Minister’s stated aim of helping the UK to succeed in the global race, and have suggested several policy ideas which will help the Government in this task. Firstly, we believe there are steps Ministers can take to make the UK a more welcoming destination for overseas visitors who need a visa, including for example, business people, tourists, students and skilled workers from China, each of whom spend on average over £1,600 when they come here. This would provide a much needed boost to the domestic economy, and involves straightforward actions.

“For example, we have suggested that the Government workwith European partners to set up a ‘one-stop’ shop for biometric data and visa applications, so that visa applicants only have to go through one process, following which their details would be automatically sent to both UK and Schengen country authorities. Currently, applicants need to go through the application process twice, and often choose to visit the Schengen area rather than the UK as a Schengen visa gives access to 26 countries compared to the UK’s one. We also believe that the price of a UK visa should be reduced to the same level as the Schengen visa, thus sending out a powerful signal that the UK wants to attract high-value visitors to the UK.

“On Air Passenger Duty (APD), we believe that current rates are far too high and that they are holding back economic growth and reducing the UK’s connectivity with both developed and emerging markets. A recent report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – using accepted Treasury modelling – found that cutting or abolishing APD would actually result in higher Treasury revenues, as more jobs are created and more business people and tourists visit these shores. Therefore, were the Treasury to conduct its own study into the effects of cutting APD, and started reducing the tax rather than increasing it, we believe this would offer a tangible way to show we are looking to compete in this all-important global competition.

“Finally, on aviation capacity, we would ask for the Government to commit to acting on the findings of the Davies Commission when it reports in 2015. This would send out a powerful signal that doing nothing to improve our connectivity in the years ahead is simply not an option.”

For further information please contact Tim Alderslade on 0207 340 0992 or


Notes to Editors:

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) is the trade association that represents UK airports. Its mission is to see UK airports grow sustainably. It represents the views of UK airports to Government, Parliament and Regulators to secure policy outcomes that help deliver our mission. The AOA represents some 50+ UK airports and general aviation airfields in the UK. For more information, please visit