Memorandum by British Airways plc
PHYSICAL CONTROLS AT UK PORTS OF ENTRY
1.1 British Airways welcomes the opportunity
to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into
the Physical Controls at UK Ports of Entry. The Immigration and
Asylum Act 1999 proposes radical change to current border controls.
We have much practical experience in this area and wish to share
this and support Government in bringing about improvements on
today's control regime.
1.2 British Airways is the UK's largest
airline: our mainline scheduled route network is one of the world's
most extensive, and we carried more than 37 million passengers
during 1998-99. We employ more than 50,000 people in the UK, and
over 10,000 elsewhere. Because of our global nature, British Airways
has a particular interest in the shaping of immigration legislation
and its application.
2. EXTERNAL BORDERS
2.1 We understand that at present the British
Government is committed to the current UK system of border controls,
and will therefore maintain internal border controls between the
UK and other members of the European Union (EU).
2.2 Whilst this remains the case, we believe
that the interests of both the consumer and the Home Office are
best served by border control procedures which allow the fastest
possible flow of EU nationals arriving at UK airports. This would
preferably involve not all passengers having to show their passports
to an immigration officer.
2.3 Passengers taking intra-EU flights probably
consider that the relaxation of internal border controls between
the EU and UK would be an attractive proposition since there would
be fewer controls to negotiate. However, we believe that such
an arrangement could have the opposite effect upon passengers
and airport operations.
2.4 Were internal EU borders to be relaxed,
the clearance of passengers entering the EU at UK airports from
elsewhere will be necessary. British Airways carries a substantial
number of passengers who connect from flights outside the EU to
flights within; there are serious implications for these and other
passengers were our airport termini reconfigured to meet clearance
procedures for those entering the EU.
2.5 Physical arrangements at airports are
complex. Changing from the present international and domestic
proportions of an airport terminal to meet the demands of a new
regime would cause extra cost, congestion and rigidity for all
passengers. Connecting times would increase to allow for border
clearance activity, meaning less efficient connections and increased
end-to-end journeys. In evidence to the House of Lords Select
Committee on the European Communities Committee (Session 1998-99),
Schengen and the United Kingdom's Border Controls, the BAA estimated
it would cost between £100 million and £300 million
to make the necessary changes at its airports.
2.6 Plans for the design of the proposed
new Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport are based on the UK remaining
outside of the EU in so far as border controls are concerned.
Additional costs and delays will be inevitable should the UK change
its position in respect of border controls and much of this cost
would doubtless be passed on to the consumer.
3. CONTROLS AT
3.1 The UK Immigration (Carriers' Liability)
Act 1987 has been long opposed by British Airways as we believe
it places an unreasonable financial and practical burden on carriers.
3.2 British Airways has invested heavily
in measures to stop incorrectly documented passengers from boarding
our flights to the UK. This investment includes the recruitment
of operational and administrative personnel to manage Carriers'
Liability issues, and costs associated with training and communication.
3.3 However, fraud is becoming ever more
sophisticated and more difficult to detect. Despite our investment,
we are experiencing an increase in the number of passengers travelling
to the UK without the proper documentation. All passengers are
required to present a passport or other acceptable travel document
before boarding our international flights to the UK, yet an increasing
number of passengers arrive in the UK with forged passports or
without any passport at all. In the last three years, British
Airways has seen a 62 per cent increase in the number of Carriers'
Liability charges relating to the above. Last year alone, we incurred
charges of almost £3.5 million associated with passengers
3.4 The Immigration (Carriers' Liability)
Act 1987 requires the carrier to check the travel documents of
passengers travelling to the UK. However, there is increasing
pressure on airlines to reduce the number of inadequately documented
arrivals by not just assessing the passenger's travel document,
but by assessing the passengers themselves. We are most concerned
about this, as it could leave the carrier vulnerable to charges
3.5 The Immigration Service has recently
posted a number of Airline Liaison Officers (ALOs) to several
overseas locations. This is most welcome as the ALOs provide carriers
with much needed expert assistance and support in the difficult
task of checking for inadequately documented passengers. Whilst
this has assisted in stemming the flow of inadequately documented
arrivals, large numbers as illustrated above continue to travel
to the UK.
4. CONTROLS AT
4.1 Nationals of at least 110 countries
require a visa to enter the UK. Of these, 17 require a visa at
all times, including occasions when a direct connection from one
international flight to another is made at a UK airport. The remaining
visa nationals may connect between flights at a UK airport without
visas provided certain conditions are met; they travel under the
"Transit Without Visa" or "TWOV" concession.
4.2 Small numbers of passengers abuse this
TWOV concession. They do so by purchasing tickets for itineraries
which involve a transfer through London, and on arrival, instead
of continuing their journey to another country, request political
4.3 The Immigration Service has addressed
TWOV abuse by imposing a Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) on
a number of nationals. The visa currently applies to nationals
of Afghanistan, China, Croatia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran,
Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Slovakia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uganda,
Yugoslavia (FRY), and The Democratic Republic of Congo.
4.4 The DATV is having a significant effect
on British Airways' transfer passenger business at Heathrow and
Gatwick, in which the airline has invested so heavily, and which
is so vital to future competitiveness. The DATV results in many
bona-fide passengers no longer travelling with British Airways
by way of London. The cost and inconvenience associated with obtaining
the visa deters them from doing so; instead they travel with other
airlines by way of other European cities where a transit visa
is not required, or where transit visa exemptions apply. We estimate
our annual revenue losses are in excess of £20 million.
4.5 British Airways acknowledges the need
for a control such as the DATV. However, we believe we can recover
much of our lost revenue were the Government to allow carriers
to benefit from exemptions to the DATV requirement. Many European
carriers benefit from such schemes, but British Airways does not.
4.6 We have proposed a DATV exemption scheme
to Home Office officials, but this has not been supported. Our
scheme would provide exemptions to the visa requirement for those
nationals who possess an entry visa or resident permit for a member
state of the European Union, USA or Canada. It is unlikely that
passengers in possession of such documents will pose a threat
to UK border controls.
5. CONTROLS AT
5.1 British Airways supports most provisions
of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 which are associated with
Flexibility and Passenger Information.
5.2 The vast majority of passengers arriving
at airports have legitimate reasons for doing so, and immigration
control should operate in a way which provides them with a fast
and efficient service. We, therefore, welcome the provisions within
the Act concerning the granting and varying of "leave to
enter" the UK. We hope the resultant procedures will improve
the efficiency and service standards of the port controls.
5.3 We note that there is a relationship
between a more flexible regime at the entry control and the carrier
provision of Passenger Information. Where it is lawful to do so,
British Airways will provide the Immigration Service with information
which is already held by the carrier. However, unless mutually
agreed between the two parties, we object strongly to collecting
additional data. Having to collect additional data from passengers
at many airports of embarkation will create much inconvenience
and delay. This will outweigh the benefits offered on arrival
to the overall detriment of the travelling public.
5.4 We believe that technological solutions
are essential in handling the expected passenger volumes of tomorrow.
We have experience with the INSPASS scheme in the USA where passengers
clear immigration controls automatically using biometrics. At
the control, a scan is taken of the passengers' hands and compared
with data already held by the Immigration Service. If the data
matches, the passenger is admitted to the USA. When the time is
right, we wish to work with Government and develop a similar scheme
in the UK. There is potential for removing a significant number
of passengers from the traditional control, thus creating efficiencies
and improved service for all passengers.
Government and Industry Affairs
British Airways plc
4 April 2000