Thirteen taxes] From Tuesday, that is what the unlucky air traveller could face on a return flight to the Caribbean.

The introduction of the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) on 1 November puts another pounds 5 or pounds 10 on the price of air tickets, and adds yet another slice of bureaucracy to the business of travel.

Flying to the Cayman Islands, for example, the most sensible route is via the United States. But even if you are merely making a connection, the US authorities insist you go through entry formalities. So you must pay pounds 4 for the privilege of a grilling at both Immigration and Customs in each direction, not forgetting pounds 1 each way for the zany Animal & Plant Health Inspection Fee (they need only change the last word to 'Duty' to produce the acronym Aphid).

You pay two 'Western Hemisphere Security Charges' of pounds 5 each, plus pounds 3 each way for security across the Atlantic. Ten taxes and counting.

The next two are mere revenue-raising devices: pounds 4 is the price of leaving the US, while your departure from Britain will have cost - in this instance - pounds 10. Passengers on flights within the UK and Western Europe pay only pounds 5 (unless the destination is Berne or Zurich, in which case the duty is pounds 10). Youth is no excuse; children over two pay the full whack.

If your calculator has been keeping up, it should show a total of pounds 48.

And don't forget the dollars 7.50 ( pounds 5) you have to pay to the Cayman authorities.

Air travellers are an easy target for taxation. The logic seems to be that if you can afford to fly, you can afford to subsidise numerous government departments. And if VAT can be imposed on domestic fuel, why should a holiday be tax-free? That, presumably, is the Treasury's rationale for the Air Passenger Duty. Being a flat fee, however, it is the equivalent of the poll tax.

Some more sums: flying from Orkney to Shetland, the pounds 5 tax amounts to 12 per cent of the total fare (of pounds 42), while someone taking a business class return, price pounds 688, to Athens pays less than 1 per cent.

If the intention is to move the UK a step closer to being a banana republic, then this is just the job. Everywhere in Latin America, from Belize to Bogota, departure tax constitutes an important source of government revenue.

If you don't want to pay the tax you have a couple of alternatives. Travel in a small aircraft, with fewer than 20 seats, or fly from France: from next month, you should be able to get a train direct to Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, and take off from there.

Britain's aviation industry is among the best in the world, and it demonstrates precisely the virtues of innovation and international competitiveness that are so admired by the Government. But the new tax is bound to clip the wings of airlines, as well as vexing British travellers and foreign visitors alike.

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