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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower