Air duty move 'will save US route'

A decision to cut Air Passenger Duty in Northern Ireland will save the region's only US airline route, political leaders have said.

This came after the Chancellor confirmed his decision to cut the levy and devolve its control to the Stormont Executive.



The move followed warnings that Northern Ireland's failure to match the lower Air Passenger Duty (APD) rate of the Irish Republic could make long-haul flights from Belfast uneconomical.



The change will come into force on November 1, when APD will fall to the lower short-haul rate - currently £12 per passenger in economy and £24 for business and first-class passengers.



Continental Airlines had said the existing rate added £60 to every US flight from Belfast International Airport and could force the transatlantic route to be axed.



Stormont leaders, First Minister Peter Robinson and acting Deputy First Minister John O'Dowd, welcomed the change in policy.



Mr Robinson said: "The Chancellor's announcement today represents the culmination of months of intense engagement undertaken by the Deputy First Minister and I to prevent the loss of our Continental Airlines service to Newark which would have had a hugely negative effect on our economy and business confidence here.



"HM Treasury as a result have now agreed to immediately reduce the duty for direct long-haul flights from November 1 and to begin the process to devolve APD to the Assembly.



"Reducing APD on direct long-haul flights will ensure that our airports remain competitive."



He added: "We anticipate that we will bring proposals to our Executive colleagues that would further reduce this tax to at least the level in the Republic of Ireland as soon as it is devolved."



Mr O'Dowd said: "Over recent months we have made a concerted effort to ensure that this Continental flight was retained and that APD was devolved.



"As part of this process we have met with Treasury and the Prime Minister, to put forward the case for devolving APD.



"Our campaign has been supported widely by public representatives in the United States and at home and we would very much like to thank them publicly now for their support."



Mr O'Dowd, filling the Deputy First Minister role for Martin McGuinness who is contesting the Irish presidency, said the flights were an important gateway for investors.



Secretary of State Owen Paterson said the move followed close work with Stormont politicians.



"Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and their colleagues worked very closely with us," he said.



"This has been a great example of how good teamwork between Whitehall and Stormont can deliver real benefits to Northern Ireland."



The Chancellor said the Government had moved to protect the only direct long-haul service operating from Northern Ireland and the jobs of those who serve the Belfast route.



"Northern Ireland faces a unique challenge in attracting traffic - including very valuable business customers - into its airports," he said.



"By announcing this immediate cut and our intention to devolve aspects of APD, the UK Government is renewing its commitment to stimulating and rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy."



Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the Chancellor's announcement was great news for the Northern Ireland economy. Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said the change was "crucial for business and for tourism".







Virgin Atlantic Airways welcomed the move, adding that it hoped the Chancellor would now "cancel the double inflation (APD) increase planned for next spring".



The Airport Operators Association also called for the reduction in the "shockingly high levels of APD in every part of the UK".



And the British Air Transport Association said this "one-off tax cut for transatlantic passengers does nothing to help people travelling between Northern Ireland and the mainland who still face a double APD on all outbound and incoming domestic flights".









A spokeswoman for the International Airline Group - the parent company of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia - said: "By cutting APD on flights from Northern Ireland the Chancellor has admitted that this tax is damaging the economy. It is making Britain less and less competitive and we are losing business to our European rivals.



"British business, travellers and tourists have paid the price too long. It's now time to scrap APD not just for Ireland but for the rest of the UK and put UK PLC back on the path to growth."







Source: PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high