The UK is following in the footsteps of the U.S. and the EU in asking travelers who aren't required to obtain visas to file travel information in advance through and Electronic Travel Authorization, or ETA—but the UK version has a troublesome twist.
Unlike the U.S. ESTA system, which has been in use for a number of years and the EU ETIAS system which is scheduled (for now, anyway) to take effect next year, the UK intends to require the £10 fee and possibly several days for approval of transfer passengers who land at a UK airport only to take off shortly after for another country.
All of the schemes basically require travelers to supply identify information and answer a number of questions; the pass is then valid for repeated travel over the next two years. The UK system is scheduled to start in November.
Some British travel experts oppose the transfer feature, pointing out that it might drive passengers to other airports, such as Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid, where no form is required for transfer passengers. That could especially affect British Air and Virgin Atlantic's operations at London Heathrow, where 40% of the passengers are transferring to other countries.
Rob Burgess, editor of the frequent flyer website Head for Points, made the point this way: “Why would anyone pay £40 for a family of four to get an ETA purely so they can transit in the UK on the way from, say, the US to Croatia? All of the other European hub carriers will be laughing as they pick up this business.”