Air Passenger Duty cut takes effect: What does it mean for my family holiday?

Most families with children aged 2-11 will find the cost of flying is lower after APD is abolished for under-12s in economy class. Simon Calder unravels the rule change and explains what it will mean for travellers

Simon Calder
Friday 25 November 2016 11:40
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The Chancellor, George Osborne, announced the abolition of Air Passenger Duty (APD) for younger travellers back in December, but it takes effect from 1 May. So what does it all mean?

Q A brief history of APD, please …

Since it was first imposed 20 years ago, Air Passenger Duty has always been a “one-size-fits-all” tax. Apart from the under-twos, who are classed by airlines as infants, children have always paid the same APD as adults. It is charged for each passenger who boards a flight at a UK airport. Initially, APD was a very simple £5 for European flights, £10 for longer haul. But it has relentlessly increased. The current rate is £13 for short-haul flights, of up to around 2,000 miles - covering all of Europe plus Turkey and North Africa. A large majority of families pay this rate. But for trips of 2,000 miles plus, the rate rises steeply to £71.

In anything but the cheapest seats, these rates are doubled.

Q What has changed?

Starting 1 May 2015, children under 12 are exempt from APD so long as they are travelling in economy. And beginning 1 March 2016, under 16s will be exempt in economy class.

For the avoidance of doubt: the age that counts is the age on the day of departure from the UK, not the age at time of booking or when flying back from a foreign airport. And passengers will not be able to fib about their age in order to avoid APD. Personal details including date of birth must be submitted, and any discrepancy should in theory be identified at the passport check.

Q Have all air fares have fallen for children?

In theory, yes, and I am not aware of any airline that is still charging the tax for under-12s. If you say a child is under 12, their fare is automatically reduced by the appropriate amount. So a short-haul economy flight that is priced for adults at £100 should be on sale to under-12s for £87. And a long-haul economy trip to Florida costing £800 return for adults will be just £729 for under-12s. Their age will be verified at check-in or at the departure gate, when their passport is checked.

Q I’ve already booked the family summer holiday. Will I get the APD back for my under-12 children?

Yes, but you may have to work at it. Because budget airlines charge the same fares for travellers aged 2, 22 or 102, they do not ask at the time of booking for childrens’ ages - except to establish, for example, whether they are eligible to travel unaccompanied.

Your airline may already have contacted you and either issued an automatic refund or told you how to go about it. Otherwise, once you have travelled you will need to go online and claim the tax back.

Q What about flights in 2016?

Flights for March 2016 are already on sale by some airlines, while others are taking bookings only up to 29 February 2016.

Mickey Mouse tax: how much APD will a family of four pay, in total, for a trip to Florida?

It’s all a question of timing.

Including two children aged 2-11:

1 May 2015-31 March 2016: £142 economy, £568 premium

1 April 2016 onwards: £146 economy, £584 premium.

Including two children aged 12-15:

1 May 2015-29 February 2016: £284 economy, £568 premium

1 March 2016-31 March 2016: £142 economy, £568 premium

1 April 2016 onwards: £146 economy, £584 premium

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