The first of two increases in the UK’s Air Passenger Duty (APD), a tax which varies according to distance travelled and seat class, has come into effect with a chorus of disapproval from airlines and travel organisations.
The charges range from £1 extra for short-haul economy passengers to £30 extra for long-haul premium flyers. The hike, which will hit hardest for long-haul passengers travelling in business and first-class cabins, has been widely condemned by the industry.
BA said the effect of the two increases would mean the cost of a flight for a family of four to Australia for travel after November 1st next year would rise by at least £340.
Today’s increase is the latest in a series of price hikes since February 2007 and Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “These proposed increases will not only hurt the aviation industry but also harm the British economy and those of many developing countries, like the Caribbean, which heavily rely on the tourism trade.”
“We are very disappointed that the government is continuing with its plans to increase APD,” says a spokesman for Thomas Cook. “They have steadfastly refused to listen to any of the arguments the travel industry has presented and, yet again, are making the consumer pay.”
The UK government went on to insist that the Air Passenger Duty is a green measure that is intended to cover the environmental cost of aviation. However, critics say its no more than a stealth tax.
A Treasury spokesman said passengers should pay their fair share in tax, adding the new rates help “the Government achieve its environmental goals”.