Top airline bosses call on Sajid Javid to cut passenger duty before Brexit hits or risk ‘holding Britain back’

Ryanair, easyJet and British Airways tell chancellor to slash tax on fliers which is highest in Europe

Neil Lancefield
Sunday 01 September 2019 16:35
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Airline bosses have urged Sajid Javid to cut air passenger duty (APD) to help make a success of Brexit.

Chief executives of easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways’ parent company IAG were among those who signed a letter to the chancellor warning that the tax is “holding back UK connectivity”.

The senior figures wrote that APD is the highest aviation tax in Europe and the highest rate in the world for long-haul flights, making it too expensive for many routes to be operated from UK airports.

Their letter stated that Germany’s comparable tax to APD is around half of the UK’s, and the former has more direct connectivity to China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.

“Connectivity, both in terms of destinations and frequencies, matters – more so for an island nation – and will be essential to the success of the UK as we near Brexit, and look to maintain European trading links and strike out to new and emerging markets across the world,” the bosses said in the letter.

The signatories urged Mr Javid to meet with them to discuss how airlines can “play our full part in supporting global Britain” after being boosted by a cut in APD.

Research commissioned by trade body Airlines UK last year identified 66 potential new routes – such as Liverpool to Southampton, Belfast to Madrid and Edinburgh to Delhi – that could be more viable if APD was abolished.

APD was originally billed as an environmental tax when it was introduced in 1994, and is levied on passengers aged 16 and over who are departing from UK airports.

The rate of APD for long-haul passengers is £78 in economy and £172 in premium seats, with short-haul trips charged at £13 in economy and £26 in premium cabins.

Different rules apply in Northern Ireland, and flights from the Scottish Highlands and Islands region are exempt.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has previously urged the Treasury to abolish the tax, including through the publication of a report on the issue by parliament’s British Infrastructure Group in November 2016.

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The aviation industry has long called for APD to be reduced or scrapped, and will be hoping Mr Shapps’ new role means he can persuade Mr Javid to take action.

In May, the Scottish government announced it is abandoning plans to cut APD, with ministers saying the policy was “no longer compatible with more ambitious climate targets”.

  • The letter to the chancellor was signed by the following chief executives: Tim Alderslade, Airlines UK; Michael O’Leary, Ryanair; Mark Anderson, Connect Airways; Willie Walsh, IAG; Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook Group; Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic and Johan Lundgren, easyJet. It was also signed by TUI Airways managing director Dawn Wilson.


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