Immigration Bill

Written evidence from the British Air Transport Association (BATA) (IB 30)

Clause 58 and Schedule 7 of the Immigration Bill

1. The British Air Transport Association (BATA) is the trade body for UK-registered airlines, with members representing all sectors of the industry. In 2012, BATA members employed 73,000 people, operated four-fifths of the UK commercial aircraft fleet and were responsible for some 96% of UK airline output, carrying 131 million passengers and 1.1 million tonnes of cargo.

2. The eleven BATA member airlines are: British Airways, DHL, easyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com, Monarch, RVL Group, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways, Titan Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

3. BATA member airlines support the need for a strong and secure border and have a long track record of positively engaging and working with the Home Office and its border agencies to achieve this aim.

4. However, Clause 58 and Schedule 7 of the Immigration Bill is of concern to us.

5. We recognise that they are included within the Bill because of the Coalition agreement of 2010 to re-introduce exit (embarkation) checks.

6. BATA members have already invested heavily, over many years, in the technology and systems required to support the government in carrying out exit checks by providing passenger data through the e-Borders system. We believe that this data enables the Home Office to ensure the effective delivery of embarkation checks and are concerned that Schedule 7 of the Bill will provide the Secretary of State with new powers to require any operator to carry out embarkation checks on passengers.

7. Immigration and embarkation checks are a core function and competency of the state. The proposal contained within the Bill gives powers to outsource this function to transport operators who will be forced to act as immigration officers.

8. We disagree with the Government view that embarkation checks could be seamlessly incorporated into existing operating practice. For our members, some of the concerns include:

9. Longer boarding times of aircraft – this would be a significant impact for all operators, whether they rely on short turnaround times at airports as part of their operating model, or whether they operate large aircraft carrying many hundreds of passengers. Even allowing a generously low estimate of 5 seconds spent swiping each passenger passport at a gate boarding an Airbus A320 could mean at least an extra 15 minutes has to be found by the airport and the airline to board the aircraft, with a Boeing 787 needing an additional 25 minutes. In the case of a fully laden A380 or Boeing 747, the extra processing time could be at least 40 minutes. The imposition of such additional loading times would cause a range of adverse knock-on effects for customers – especially at airports with limited capacity and for those services which require speedy turnarounds.

10. Border Risk – introducing checks at the boarding gate will require unqualified customer service staff to take on the role of an immigration officer with minimal training.

11. Physical constraints – at some airports, there may be a lack of sufficient or adequate infrastructure to support the efficient and timely of carrying out of these checks.

12. Cost - UK airlines already spend significant sums on complying with e-Borders (eg personnel, data transmission and IT development and  running costs) and the Bill in its current form could mean them potentially having to have properly trained staff to act as ‘designated persons’ etc on hand for every flight.

13. Ground handling arrangements - many airlines do not have their own ground staff at some or all of the airports they operate from and use ground handling companies. This means that they would be unable to directly provide ‘designated’ staff themselves.

14. BATA therefore believes that Clause 58/Schedule7 should be removed from the Bill.

15. As it is already possible to implement effective embarkation checks by utilising the data that the Home Office has access to from e-Borders, the new provisions impose an unnecessary and disproportionate burden on airlines that already comply with existing requirements to provide advance passenger information.

November 2013

Prepared 13th November 2013