Long-haul higher-polluting flights face duty rise

Long-haul flights face duty rise under plans to make passengers on higher-polluting plane journeys pay more

  • The Treasury is considering introducing higher taxes for long-haul flights 
  • Holidaymakers would see increased flight tax to Australia, New Zealand & Peru 
  • Would help cut taxes for domestic flights, currently charged at £26 for return

Holidaymakers face higher taxes for long-haul flights in a policy to make the ‘polluter pay’, ministers said yesterday.

The Treasury said it was considering increasing Air Passenger Duty (APD) for flights to places such as Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.

The increase would help pay for a cut in APD for domestic flights, announced this month by Boris Johnson in a bid to strengthen the Union. 

Currently there are two tax bands – for flights of up to 2,000 miles and for trips of more than 2,000 miles. People on long-haul flights already pay £80 APD. 

Holidaymakers face higher taxes for long-haul flights in a policy to make the ‘polluter pay’. Picture: Stock

Domestic flights are charged the short-haul rate of £26 for return travel. The Treasury scheme involves increasing the bands to three or four.

A Treasury document said this ‘would reinforce the “polluter pays principle” by ensuring that those who travel furthest internationally, and consequently have the greatest impact on the environment, incur the most duty’.

Last night Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, said: ‘APD is not and never has been an environmental tax.

‘It is a tax on UK competitiveness and only serves to hinder route development and connectivity.’

The Treasury did not say at which levels the new bands would be set, but it did say that the amount raised on international flights would rise to offset a planned reduction in APD for domestic flights.

At present, domestic flights are charged at the same rate as all short-haul flights, adding £26 to the cost of return travel in standard class. Regional airline Flybe, which collapsed in March 2020, blamed APD for contributing to its financial struggles.

Domestic flights are charged the short-haul rate of £26 for return travel. The Treasury scheme involves increasing the bands to three or four. Picture: Stock aerial image of Heathrow

Last night Henry Smith, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation, said: ‘It is welcome that the government are looking at reform of Air Passenger Duty, but their guiding focus must be to support our embattled airlines to bounce back from the pandemic rather than potentially add new bands and increase the costs on hard working families.

‘Our sky-high levels of APD have consistently undermined and damaged our long-haul connectivity and any reform must ensure that our world class airlines are not only able to recover from the pandemic but to protect and increase the vital connectivity that we will need for a truly global Britain.’

Environmental groups have long called for the UK to introduce a ‘frequent flyer levy’ in a bid to reduce demand for flights.

However, the consultation document said the government is opposed to this as it would be ‘significantly more complex to administer’ than APD, due to the requirement to identify and record every flight taken by an individual from a UK airport.

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