UK passengers on long-haul flights will benefit from an overhaul of the much-hated Air Passenger Duty (APD) airport departure tax.
Announcing changes, Chancellor George Osborne admitted that the current system was “crazy and unjust” in that Britons travelling on, say, eight-hour flights to Barbados pay more APD than those on 11-hour flights to California.
Those on ultra long-haul flights to destinations such as Australia and south east Asia pay even more in APD.
But yesterday Mr Osborne said that he was scrapping the two highest of the four APD tax bands so that those on long- haul flights pay only as much as they do now travelling to the USA.
UK airlines, travel companies and Caribbean tourist boards have long denounced the APD system and there was a cautious welcome yesterday to the changes.
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, which speaks for 75 UK carriers, said: “The Government has finally acknowledged what the industry and business knew all along – that the highest rates of aviation tax in the world were a brake on driving the UK’s economic growth with emerging markets.”
He went on: “Of course we would like the Chancellor to go further still on reducing APD but this is a step in the right direction and we will continue its engagement with the Government to deliver the fair and proportionate aviation tax that the UK deserves.”
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “It is clear the Government has recognised that APD represents a growing barrier to growth and investment, putting the UK at a competitive disadvantage compared to our nearest international rivals.
“This reform of APD – together with the measures announced to assist the start-up of new routes from airports around the country – is a very welcome step from the Treasury.” Chris Harcombe, the head of aviation development at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, said: “We welcome this announcement from the Chancellor.
“This reform will provide a boost to the UK aviation sector regarding long-haul flights. We would, however, like to see further reforms to Air Passenger Duty to benefit all UK regional airports.”