Belfast Telegraph

Consumer Council slams plan to hike air passenger tax

By Patrice Dougan and Peter Woodman

A government decision to go ahead with plans to increase Air Passenger Duty (APD) in 2012 has been branded “bitterly disappointing”.

Northern Ireland’s Consumer Council slammed Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that APD would rise by 8% from April, saying it highlights the need to have the issue devolved to the Assembly quickly.

The Treasury’s response to a consultation on APD was described as “a sham and a waste of taxpayers' money” by airlines.

Despite pleas to reduce, scrap or amend APD, the Treasury said the system would carry on as it is.

In a statement, the bosses of easyJet, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways parent company IAG, said: “We are left with a tax that has already cost 25,000 jobs, is doing increasing damage to the prospects for economic recovery, and sends a message to the world that Britain is a difficult and expensive place to do business.”

Antoinette McKeown, chief executive of the Consumer Council, said the vast majority of flights to and from Northern Ireland are from other UK airports. It means local passengers pay the charge twice on return flights to or from Great Britain.

“Protecting the connectivity between NI and other UK airports is of paramount importance to ensure a choice of sustainable routes for NI passengers as well as to encourage tourism and investment,” she said.

Earlier this year, airline Continental had threatened to pull its daily transatlantic service from Belfast International if APD was not reduced. It had faced competition from US flights flying out of Dublin, which has a low Air Travel Tax of just €3 on any flight. This had compared to Northern Ireland’s APD of £60 on an economy fare and £120 on a business ticket on long-haul flights.

Background

From April, UK air passengers will be charged an additional 8% more Air Passenger Duty on all flights.

This means that APD on economy tickets for short flights of no more than 2,000 miles will rise from £12 to £13.

Long-haul flights from Northern Ireland have the same APD rate, due to a Government decision to save air routes here.

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