Call to scrap air passenger duty
Air Passenger Duty (APD) should be scrapped because of Northern Ireland's dependence on flight connections in Great Britain, the Consumer Council has said.
The amount levied on a return flight from Belfast to London could increase to £32 because of a review of the levy. The Treasury is consulting on options for reform and wants to ensure aviation meets the cost of its impact on the environment.
Scott Kennerley, head of transport policy at the Council, told a Stormont committee: "We intend to call for passenger duty to be removed from all air travel to and from Northern Ireland, given our high dependence on air travel.
"If you need to travel from Northern Ireland to somewhere else within the UK for interlining or connecting to another European airport, for example, we have to fly so in many cases we pay that charge twice, we don`t have an alternative."
A report drawn up for easyJet estimates that there could be a reduction of 104,000 passenger journeys through Northern Ireland if proposed changes in the consultation are introduced. The Government is considering changing the law to broaden the aviation tax base.
Currently, the total of APD levied depends on how far you fly and is divided into four bands. that could be reduced to two under the proposals, which the Consumer Council warned could lead to some passengers paying more.
Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, has the highest level of aviation duty in Europe. The levy on a flight from Belfast to London could increase from £24 to £32 per person under the consultation. Most travel is to visit friends and family, often meaning entire families flying for special occasions and soaring air duty costs. In Dublin the equivalent tax is three euros per person and that may be removed.
Mr Kennerley gave evidence to Stormont`s Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee. He said the Government in Westminster was keen to discourage regional UK flights for environmental reasons, directing them towards trains, but people in Northern Ireland do not have that option.
Mr Kennerley warned people were increasingly turning to Dublin airport. He said: "The more Northern Ireland passengers that travel via Republic of Ireland airports rather than Northern Ireland airports, the bigger the impact, the loss of revenue for HM Treasury, Northern Ireland airports, the region`s economy."
The Treasury`s consultation closes on June 17.