The chief of the International Air Transport Association on Tuesday said airlines are suffering a "scam" as pricey coronavirus tests are required of people travelling to Britain.

"Nobody will object to having systems in place to protect health and making sure that people can travel safely. But everybody should object when we see evidence of people being ripped off," IATA boss Willie Walsh said during an online conference.

Depending on the manufacturer, packages of tests are mostly billed at around ?100 (116 euros, $140).

Often costlier than a short-haul ticket, Walsh said the prices amounted to "profiteering" by sellers.

Easyjet is just one of the airlines that have complained about costly coronavirus tests for travellers Easyjet is just one of the airlines that have complained about costly coronavirus tests for travellers Photo: AFP / Odd ANDERSEN

"If you fly to the UK for three days... you've got to buy a package in advance to do a test on day two and day eight, even though you won't be there until the eighth," former British Airways chief Walsh said.

"This is nonsense. It's a scam, let's call it what it is," he added, warning that "we can't have a situation where only the wealthy are in a position to travel".

The criticism from IATA, which represents 290 airlines accounting for 82 percent of global passenger traffic, follows on the heels of similar complaints from low-cost carrier Easyjet.

After its members shed $510 billion in revenue last year, IATA is pushing for a standardised approach to reopening air travel, especially health certificates, ahead of the critical summer season -- although the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in much of the world.