Flybe calls for air tax to be axed on all internal flights
Europe's largest regional airline has told the Government that it must scrap or drastically reduce a controversial air tax.
Flybe said domestic travellers currently pay a premium levy per mile which is 38 times that paid by long-haul passengers.
The company has sent an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne calling for air passenger duty (APD) to be reformed in the interests of fairness for travellers.
The basic domestic rate for APD is currently £13 - a sum that is paid twice on return trips.
A Treasury spokeswoman yesterday said there were no plans to get rid of the levy.
Saad Hammad, the chief executive officer of Flybe - which has 14 direct routes to Britain from Belfast - said he believed the Treasury had overlooked the way in which APD disadvantaged regional travellers on a per mile basis in comparison to those travelling short-haul to Europe, and, in particular, those travelling long-haul.
The basic domestic rate for APD is £13, which means someone travelling on a one-way trip from Manchester to the Isle of Man (109 miles) pays £13.
If that person were to travel from Manchester to Auckland (11,311 miles) they would pay £71.
"This represents a tax premium per mile of 19 times for the UK domestic business traveller over the long-haul traveller," he said.
Mr Hammad added that domestic travellers also ended up paying APD twice on return trips (because APD is a departure tax), whereas international travellers only have to pay it once.
He said: "So, in the example above, the domestic traveller pays a tax premium per mile of 38 times!"
Flybe stressed that a return domestic flight should only have APD levied on it once.
UK APD is the highest tax of its type in Europe and one of the highest in the world.
"There is absolutely no logic in such an unfair, discriminatory tax regime," Mr Hammad said.
"The availability of affordable, high-quality air service connectivity is fundamental to the economic prosperity of the whole of the UK."
Belfast International Airport boss Graham Keddie said the tax "should be consigned to the dustbin of history". He added: "APD is a tax on jobs, growth and tourism, with its only raison d'etre as a tax-raising opportunity for the UK Treasury."
"Belfast International Airport will continue to push for the removal of APD as soon as possible."
A spokesman for Belfast City Airport said it had consistently campaigned for a reduction in APD.
"At a national level the airport supports the campaign led by the Airport Operators Association for a UK-wide reduction in APD," he said.
A Treasury spokeswoman said the Government was committed to making sure APD was a fair levy for passengers.
"That's why we've made it cheaper to fly through freezing APD for most passengers since 2012, exempting children and reducing the number of bands, meaning it's now lower for many more long-haul destinations," she said.