Simon Calder: Do nine out of 10 flyers really prefer Holland?

The industry of human happiness? These days, the travel business rarely feels like that. Despondency runs deep; not so much because of what is happening this month and next, but what the rest of the year looks like.

In the short term, prospects for tour operators look quite rosy. Package holidays are commanding high prices for departures in July and August, thanks to swingeing capacity cuts. But the melancholy of autumn is likely to be intense for many airlines and holiday companies.

Who's to blame? Many parts of the travel industry point a finger at the usual suspects: the Government, and in particular the Chancellor's plans to change Air Passenger Duty (APD) rates in November, and again a year later. By the end of next year, the present £40 tax for travellers to Australia will increase to £85.

The pilots' union, Balpa, warns: "At a time when the worldwide aviation industry is suffering, the UK Chancellor is going to suffocate his very own industry." The headline figure of the survey Balpa commissioned about the APD rise has been widely reported: "90 per cent of adults would prefer to fly to Amsterdam to connect with their long-haul flight."

Clearly, if nine out of 10 long-haul travellers were to take a short hop to Holland to escape APD, the consequences forBritish pilots – and their cabin crew colleagues – would be dire. But the scenario that 1,000 online respondents were asked to respond to is so far-fetched that it renders the survey meaningless.

"You are travelling to Australia from a regional airport in the UK; such as Birmingham, Manchester or Edinburgh. This journey would involve a transfer on to a long-haul aircraft at a large international airport. When booking your tickets, you are told that you would pay £85 less in Air Passenger Tax per person by transferring in Amsterdam than you would if you transferred at London Heathrow. Given the choice, if you actually decided to make this journey, which route would you prefer to take?"

Let's leave aside the fact that most long-haul travellers from the UK fly from Heathrow or Gatwick rather than from regional airports, and that paying £85 less in APD would apply only if you flew to Schiphol on a private jet, which is tax-free; otherwise, you would have to pay £12 in tax for the hop to Amsterdam.

The survey's scenario assumes that you buy separate tickets: one to the Dutch capital, and another from there to Australia. At present, the vast majority of UK travellers changing planes at Amsterdam (or Paris, or Frankfurt) travel on a through ticket and therefore pay the full, long-haul rate of APD. They do this not because they enjoy paying tax, but because even after handing Alistair Darling £40, long-haul fares from the UK are usually lower than from Continental Europe.

Consider a trip to Sydney on 1 November this year. Through the online agent Expedia, you can easily get a return flight from Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic, pausing in Hong Kong, for £731. The best fare that the Dutch version of Expedia offers for an Amsterdam-Sydney flight on those dates is £847 return (plus £96 for the London-Amsterdam hops).

In return for paying £242, you would get a convoluted trip that involves a hop from Amsterdam to Frankfurt and a transfer to a Qantas flight that stops in Singapore en route to Sydney; inbound, you touch down in Bangkok and change planes in, er, London.

Amsterdam is not the world centre of aviation; nor, for that matter, is New York, Paris or Tokyo. London's airports offer far more choice and better value than anywhere else. My personal APD bill will increase by hundreds of pounds when the tax rise takes effect, but Britain remains the optimum country from which to begin a long journey.

Passport fees constitute a poll tax for travellers. You need this expensive document, which incidentally works out as a flat-rate tax of 2p for each day of validity, whether you merely want a day trip to Calais, a domestic flight on Ryanair or, like me, you spend your entire life on holiday while pretending to work.

In the past 12 years retail prices have gone up by around 30 per cent, while "passport inflation" is running at 300 per cent. That's not counting the next rise, from 3 September, which sees the cost of a standard passport leap by £5.50 to £77.50.

To avoid the hike, check your passport expiry date now. Does it run out in the next nine months? Renew now and you get credit for the unused time; a passport replacing one due to expire on 11 April 2010 will be valid to the same date in 2020.

Passports: a big business

Not all passports are equal. You can, like me, opt to pay £13 extra for a "Jumbo" passport with 16 more pages for frontier functionaries to stamp, sign and scrutinise to their bureaucratic hearts' content. When I touched down on the first flight from Stansted to Zadar in Croatia, I was touched that the immigration official should date-stamp the document on the very last page, perhaps in a vain bid to keep things alphabetical (Australia was already there). But what possible justification can there be for charging frequent travellers nearly £1 for every additional passport page? A question for James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service.

"We don't issue very many 'Jumbo' passports. It requires a completely different production line, so the costs are significantly higher than a standard passport." There is one more good reason: the price of a passport includes the "Consular Premium", a whip-round to pay for UK consular services abroad. Standard passport holders chip in £15.12; "Jumbo" travellers pay 50 per cent more: statistically, we are more likely to call on consular help.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution