The Chancellor's move to freeze air passenger duty (APD) was deemed a step in the right direction by airports and airlines last night - but with some niggles.
Duty on short-haul economy flights went up by £1 to £12 in November, with some longer flights facing bigger increases. Airlines have lobbied against any further jumps in duty. They also celebrated when George Osborne revealed he would start charging APD on private jet passengers.
A spokeswoman for Belfast International Airport welcomed the APD freeze but admitted the airport was disappointed that the Government had not tackled APD on transatlantic and international flights from Aldergrove.
She claimed the airport was at a disadvantage as it shares a border with the Republic, which does not impose as much APD on long-haul flights and "appears to adopt an entirely different view regarding the value of access to their economy".
Aer Lingus's Declan Kearney said the airline was pleased that APD would stay the same, but added: "The levels are still too high and act as a significant disincentive to UK tourism."
Flybe chairman and chief executive Jim French said the freeze was "very much a step in the right direction" - particularly for domestic passengers who faced paying tax on both legs of a journey.
A spokesman for British Midland International (bmi) also greeted the freeze with enthusiasm, a spokeswoman adding that the airline was against any increase in APD.
"Aviation is already overtaxed and in the current economic climate we should be encouraging people to travel," she said.
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall welcomed the decision to tax private jet passengers, and the freeze on APD.
But she called on the Government to address the omission of transfer passengers from APD, saying it should impose "a fairer, greener per-plane tax instead".