Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Air passenger duty needs to be grounded

Following Flybe's decision to axe flights from George Best Belfast City Airport to London Gatwick, the Northern Ireland Executive should make it clear that it would like powers to cut short-haul air passenger duty (APD). The duty is damaging the viability of flights from Northern Ireland.

The Conservative-led coalition Government has already devolved powers to set APD on long-haul flights and now is the time for the Executive to state clearly that it wants the same power for short-haul flights and would be prepared to use it.

The Executive needs to put together a plan to help our struggling airports and the aviation industry. The sector is vital to other businesses, to tourism and to our economy.

It's estimated that passengers lost to Dublin cost 500 jobs in 2013. We want to see a cross-party committee on aviation and action to attract new airlines and routes to Northern Ireland.

The Gatwick route is just the latest service lost to airports, following the closure recently of flights to Leeds-Bradford and Manchester.

In order to provide better links for business and leisure and to prevent this region becoming peripheral to the rest of the UK, there is a strong argument for cutting APD.

The Scottish islands and Wick in the Highlands, which have similar issues, are already exempt from the tax.

JOHNNY ANDREWS

NI Conservatives

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