It is a topic that rears its head again and again – the vexed question of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and its relative degrees of unfairness. Airlines have long complained about its different rates and frequent increases, warning that it jeopardises the concept of cheap holidays overseas by forcing carriers to put up their prices.
Now the regional airports of the UK are getting in on the act, calling on Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to ditch the “one-size-fits-all” model of APD after he reduced the “tourist tax” for long-haul flights from airports in Northern Ireland.
A group of airport operators have written a joint letter to the Chancellor, which says that it hopes the Northern Ireland decision is merely a precursor to a similar APD reduction for all flights to and from airports outside London.
The letter – which has been signed by airports including Birmingham, Bristol and the Manchester Airport Group, plus cheap flights carriers such as Jet2.com and Flybe – also warns that maintaining the high levels of APD at regional airports will prevent them from expanding and taking on the customer overspill from London’s busy travel hubs – something that the government has declared itself in favour of.
Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe “We have argued for some time that APD has a disproportionate impact on the regions, including those that rely on crucial lifeline air services.”
“They have a lower percentage of business travellers or inbound tourists than the London airports and have been hit hard by the economic downturn. By reducing the APD it would support economic growth and the rebalancing of the UK economy.”
Another demand in the letter is for ministers to give airlines economic incentives to utilise Britain’s regional airports wherever possible. If the government responds to these demands, expect to see more cheap flight deals across the regions, which can only be good news for holidaymakers.