South West airports want end to punitive ‘air tax’

Newquay airport is the latest airport in the South West to call for an end to Air Passenger Duty (APD). It joins both Exeter and Bristol airports in their continuing campaign to end the unpopular ‘holiday tax’—a campaign South West TPA have been keen to support with several action days.

"The disproportionate impact that the tax has on domestic travel," says Exeter Airport’s managing director, "affects airports like Exeter particularly badly given the emphasis on providing connectivity across the regions. It is the single biggest barrier to a return to growth in regional airports and given the important role that regional airports play in their local economy, the biggest barrier to stimulating their recovery."

Exeter-based low cost airline Flybe has been so incensed by the tax that they have previously offered to pay it for early-booking customers. Buying a return ticket from Exeter to London City costs £26 in APD, they say—the equivalent to 6.84p a mile—and yet a passenger flying return from Manchester to Athens only pays £13—or 0.4p per mile. ‘Regional aviation is a crucial part of the UK’s transport infrastructure and there is absolutely no logic for the continuation of such a discriminatory tax regime,’ says Flybe’s chief executive.

Their comments come hot on the heels of a House of Commons Transport Committee report on Smaller Airports, which concludes that APD "incentivises airlines and passengers to fly from airports located in other EU member states."

"Smaller airports drive economic growth," says the Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP. "But the smaller airports sector—which is vital to people and businesses in the regions—is limited by Air Passenger Duty. Transport Ministers must stand up for smaller airports and make the case to the Treasury that APD squeezes jobs, growth and connectivity."

"We heard about how airports in Northern Ireland have been affected by Air Passenger Duty," she continues, "where passengers choose to fly from Dublin because aviation taxes are lower. Northern England could experience a similar competitive disadvantage if APD is devolved to Scotland."

Air Passenger Duty cannot be cut in the UK because it would break European competition law, and yet Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have all ditched their own versions of APD. It is certainly also true that it is stifling growth in the South West.

"Reducing APD is the single biggest thing that could enable airports to attract new routes and increase their passenger numbers,’ says the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association. "APD is the highest aviation tax in the world and is increasingly putting the UK at a disadvantage."

Tim Newark, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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