Flybe, one of the leading European regional airlines based in the UK, has urged the UK Government to scrap or significantly reduce a controversial air tax, The Belfast Telegraph has reported.
Domestic travellers pay a premium levy per mile that is 38 times the amount paid by long-haul passengers, Flybe claims. The company has sent an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne calling for the reform of air passenger duty (APD) to benefit passengers.
The highest tax of its type in Europe, the UK APD is also one of the highest in the world. Currently the basic domestic rate for APD is £13 – an amount paid twice on return trips.
Saad Hammad, the chief executive officer of Flybe, said that the Treasury had overlooked the way in which APD has disadvantaged regional travellers on a per mile basis in comparison to those travelling short-haul to Europe, and particularly those travelling long-haul.
The basic domestic rate for APD is £13, which would mean a traveller on a one-way trip from Manchester to the Isle of Man (109 miles) would pay £13. Meanwhile, if he were to travel from Manchester to Auckland (11,311 miles), he would pay £71. ‘This represents a tax premium per mile of 19 times for the UK domestic business traveller over the long-haul traveller,’ Hammad said.
He added that domestic travellers also ended up paying APD twice on return trips (because APD is a departure tax), whereas international travellers only have to pay it once. So, effectively, ‘the domestic traveller pays a tax premium per mile of 38 times!’ he said.
Flybe also emphasised that a return domestic flight should only have APD levied on it once. ‘There is absolutely no logic in such an unfair, discriminatory tax regime,’ Hammad said. ‘The availability of affordable, high-quality air service connectivity is fundamental to the economic prosperity of the whole of the UK.’
Meanwhile, a Treasury spokeswoman said that there were no plans to get rid of the levy. However, she said that the Government was committed to ensuring that APD was a fair levy for passengers.
‘That’s why we’ve made it cheaper to fly through freezing APD for most passengers since 2012, exempting children and reducing the number of bands, meaning it’s now lower for many more long-haul destinations,’ she said.