UK Foreign Secretary Under Fire For Flying United Airlines


The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has been in the press this week due to his overseas activity. While the politician deals with the fallout after his police protection officer left a gun on a plane at London Heathrow, he has come under fire from the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) for flying to the United States with a US carrier rather than a British one.

United Airlines 787-8 Dreamliner Getty
Dominic Raab hopped on a United 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Getty Images

Lack of support

Raab flew back to London from Washington Dulles on United Airlines flight UA918 on Thursday evening. It is not United that the union has a problem with but rather that the UK government is flying with an airline not based in the country amid the crisis within the aviation industry. United took off from the US capital on the same evening that British Airways flight BA292 left.

According to The Independent, Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, said the following about Raab’s choice of airline:

“Maybe it’s too much to expect but I would like to see our foreign secretary travelling with a British airline rather than spending taxpayers money on an American one. There were alternative British flights available so what’s the excuse? It’s about time the UK government started showing a bit of support for UK aviation.”

Dominic Raab
Raab was in talks with US politicians. Photo: Getty Images

The circumstances

The cost of a short-notice return trip from London to Washington D.C. with the flag carrier of the United Kingdom in business class is £6,220 ($8,034). Meanwhile, a similar offering from United was quoted as £375 ($484) higher. However, the UK Foreign Office has contracts with carriers that are likely to provide attractive prices. In contrast, the United States’ Fly America Act requires its government to use US operators for its activity.

Perhaps the decision to fly with an airline other than British Airways could do with timing. Notably, the United service would have arrived back in London approximately four hours before the BA flight.

Nonetheless, these sorts of trips don’t come cheap. On a two-day stay in Washington D.C. last September, Raab’s travel, accommodation, and meal expenses racked up to £19,371.

easyJet and British Airways
The UK aviation industry is frustrated with current policies. Photo: Getty Images

Troubling times

This year, the choice of airline is even more of a sensitive issue. For several months, British aviation bodies have been pleading with the government for greater support amid the travel restrictions in place. Airports and airlines have worked on and proposed alternative measures to the 14-day quarantine policy. However, there is no budging.

Just this week, British Airways told members of parliament that the carrier is burning through £20 million in cash per day. Moreover, it is transporting only 18.7% of passengers compared with last year. Notably, 10,000 workers could be made redundant due to the downturn in activity.


However, it should be noted that United also has staff based in the UK. Nonetheless, politicians have been promoting schemes for the public to spend money and save British businesses amid the pandemic. So, the nation’s aviation industry would feel that gestures such as the government purchasing tickets to fly on the country’s own airlines will go a long way in the current circumstances.

What are your thoughts about Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab flying with United Airlines on his trip to the United States? Do you feel that the choice of carrier should matter? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.