Flight tax change boosts fam­i­lies

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

Hol­i­days will be cheaper for fam­i­lies now that the Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to scrap Air Pas­sen­ger Duty (APD) for the un­der 12s.

George Os­borne an­nounced on Wed­nes­day that chil­dren younger than 12 fly­ing in econ­omy will be ex­empt from the con­tro­ver­sial tax from May 1 next year, and un­der 16s from 2016.

It means that a fam­ily of four fly­ing on a di­rect flight from Bri­tain will save up to £142 (and even more if they fly in­di­rectly (see ta­ble). It also means that fam­i­lies who have bought chil­dren’s flights de­part­ing from May 1 are en­ti­tled to re­funds.

“The Gov­ern­ment has fi­nally ad­mit­ted that this tax is un­fair,” said Cathal O’Con­nell, CEO of BMI Re­gional. “We’re de­lighted to be able to re­fund APD pay­ments made by trav­ellers on their fam­ily hol­i­day flights for travel from May 1. We be­lieve this will boost out­bound tourism and we have set up our call cen­tre to re­ceive cus­tomer calls with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.”

New air­fares re­flect­ing the tax change will be pub­lished as soon as pos­si­ble, he said. Bri­tish Air­ways also con­firmed on Thurs­day that its prices were be­ing up­dated.

While the Chan­cel­lor stopped short of abol­ish­ing APD en­tirely, the tax break was wel­comed by mem­bers of the travel in­dus­try who have been cam­paign­ing against APD since its in­tro­duc­tion in 1994.

Bri­tish trav­ellers are some of the most heav­ily taxed in the world and many ar­gue that the levy prices or­di­nary fam­i­lies out of over­seas hol­i­days.

“A re­moval of tax on all flights for chil­dren un­der the age of 12 is in keep­ing with our aim to fight what we call the Par­ent Trap,” said Richard Singer, the Euro­pean MD of Trav­el­zoo.

“This is the com­bined ef­fect of the gov­ern­ment fines for term-time hol­i­days, the high­est flight tax in the world and the in­crease in price of travel dur­ing peak dates.”

The company was not alone in claim­ing it would con­tinue to lobby to get the tax abol­ished en­tirely. The As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish Travel Agents (ABTA) said it will con­tinue to make the case for a much-needed re­view of the wider tax, “with a view to set­ting a fairer, more com­pet­i­tive level of APD.”

Business trav­ellers con­tinue to feel they are be­ing un­fairly pe­nalised.

“The scrap­ping of APD on flights for chil­dren is to be wel­comed,” said Saad Ham­mad, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Flybe. “How­ever, there are not many business trav­ellers un­der the age of 12 years.”

He pointed out that the brunt of APD is most keenly felt by those on do­mes­tic flights. A pas­sen­ger pays £13 in APD on a re­turn jour­ney from Manch­ester to Paris or Athens, but from Manch­ester to Ex­eter, this dou­bles to £26 in APD.

“This change is just tin­ker­ing at the edges and rep­re­sents a missed op­por­tu­nity by the Chan­cel­lor to show that he is se­ri­ous about the eco­nomic re­gen­er­a­tion of the UK re­gions,” he said.

The Gov­ern­ment also re­vealed this week that it is con­sid­er­ing mak­ing it a re­quire­ment to dis­play APD cal­cu­la­tions so that fares are more trans­par­ent.

Mr Os­borne re­formed the sys­tem used to cal­cu­late APD in his bud­get in May, and in do­ing so ad­mit­ted that the tax hits ex­ports and puts off tourists.

He amal­ga­mated all long­haul des­ti­na­tions into one band so that hol­i­days in the Caribbean or Aus­tralia, for ex­am­ple, will now carry as much tax as those in the United States.

The new bands – one for short-haul des­ti­na­tions of less than 2,000 miles and one for flights fur­ther than 2,000 miles - will come into ef­fect in April next year.

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