I want to pay Air Passenger Duty on all my flights

11 March 2011

You don’t? Let me explain.

expensive planeYou see, a recent consortium of assorted airline type folks wrote a letter to Mr George suggesting he abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD) completely on flights leaving the UK.

The twenty-five travel companies and organisations (including British Airways, Tui, Thomas Cook, Abta, BAA and Virgin Atlantic) think that abolishing APD, which has rocketed a whopping 325 per cent over the last six years, would not only help out our poor, long-suffering British families, but also improve the UK’s economic outlook, as the tax is putting people off flying and coming to the UK. Apparently a decrease in flight numbers has everything to do with the APD and nothing to do with the fact that no one has any money as we are in a recession.

The campaign has a catchy name (Fair Tax on Flying) and a whole lot of indignation behind it. Still if the issue was as burning in consumer minds as they would have us believe, perhaps they wouldn’t have needed to use such leading questions as this in their ‘impartial’ survey...

At present, the UK government collects Air Passenger Duty (APD) from every passenger flying through a UK airport. The amount of APD paid depends on the distance of the flight and whether you are travelling in economy or business class. As an example, a British family of four flying from a UK airport to Florida in economy class will pay £240 to the British government in flight tax. Do you think  that this tax on flights is, too much, about right, not enough?”

But, perhaps you should be careful what you wish for. APD currently brings in an estimated £2.2 billion in tax- rising to £3.6 billion in 2015. Not an amount to be sniffed at. If the Chancellor were to abolish APD, he would have to make up that shortfall somewhere, or somehow, else. Where would you like to see £2.2 billion shaved? The NHS? Schools? Any remaining public services?

Of course, the alternative to cuts is to levy another form of taxation. Given the fair tax on flying alliance wants us to be fair, why not levy VAT and fuel duty on air travel from which air travel is currently excluded? After all, when we fill up at the pump we pay 58.95p per litre in fuel duty and then pay VAT on top. That would be fair, now wouldn’t it?

Fair, but astonishingly expensive. Would you rather pay £12 per person to fly to Barcelona or the tax on the 1414 mile round trip- at 100 miles per gallon (4.55 litres) per person, that’s a measly £37.92 in fuel duty and £7.58 in VAT on the fuel duty. That’s almost four times as much wonga out of your pocket (because you can be sure the airlines won’t shoulder the cost), not taking into account the VAT on the cost of the fuel itself. And don’t even bother thinking of flying to Australia...

Besides, we all know that the ‘taxes’ part of the ‘fees,taxes and charges’ added on by airlines when trying to book their £1 flights to Los Angeles is only a very small proportion- can you really see the bucket airlines passing the whole saving on? Perhaps they would have a new ‘non-accounting for non-tax’ charge instead?

All in all, if I were a member of the consortium, I would stop and think how good I actually have it. Besides, surely the people lobbying should be the passengers, after all, we are the ones who are paying the levy in increased air fares.

TOPICS:   Travel   Tax


  • spence91
    Hold up, there's going to be more than one person in the aeroplane, right? I've not crunched the numbers but does it take into account that it's a shared journey trip/flight?
  • james d.
    You sucked me in with your crazy headline I was all like "what bitter wallet WANT to pay duty? this is crazy, I must read more to find out why"
  • Matt
    @spence91 Click the link through to 'How Stuff Works'-it explains it all there. As a side not, I've never really understood where all those Hippies get off talking about the amount of fuel used by planes...
  • zeddy
    Scrap all these shite taxes. Cameron and Clegg can then sit in stocks and do a sponsored "kick me in the fucking nads for 20p". The national debt would be wiped out in minutes.
  • Al
    Oh Sam, you really haven't thought this one through have you. One of the unique things about airplanes is that they can travel between countries relatively easily. If you got rid of APD and added more duty/VAT instead all you'd succeed in doing is getting the airlines filling up abroad. We'd therefore be getting no APD and no money from duty/VAT ... genius.
  • M4RKM
    one thing that wasn't taken into account with the calculations, is that the 100mpg is probably an american gallon, not a british gallon, so it isn't 4.55 litres per person but 3.79 much more research should have been done before this article was written. M
  • hippy
    i tried reading this article but got bored and started to go away. Just thought you should know that. I dont mind paying the extra charges, it would be nice to actually only pay 1p for a flight but that aint happening. All i want is the airlines to give us a proper price. 1p turns into something like £60, so just say £60. its still cheap compared to other airlines etc. You dont go to a petrol pump and it says "only 3p a liter*" then in tiny writing says *not including taxes and vat.
  • George
    Great report.... Pity there are so many easy lead people commenting here. The old aviation lobby hate when they are shown up. Aviation is scamming us all and if they think they should be allowed to not pay there fair share so their shareholders are kept happy, they are wrong. Get real people .......
  • John B.
    Sam is quite right that a fair tax on flying would be about four times greater than the current APD about which the airlines are whinging. At present other sections of the economy and hard working families (many of whom can not afford to fly) are making up the difference so that aviation can continue to be feather bedded.
  • Al
    @George - No commenters here seem to be 'easy lead' ... just saying that duty/VAT isn't the answer. For a start VAT can be reclaimed by any big business (like taxis, buses or trains do). Similarly, duty can be relcaimed on anything which is exported (think international flight). By all means argue that APD isn't high enough, but suggesting that duty/VAT is the way to do it just makes you look more foolish.
  • ptc, g.
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