An ‘astounding’ tax increase on ultra-long haul flights will ‘penalise’ a global Britain and be a further blow to airlines recovering from the impact of Covid, aviation chiefs have warned.
Airline bosses have reacted with fury over the Government’s plan to slap a £91 passenger duty (APD) on flights to far flung destinations such as Australia, east Asia and large parts of South America from 2023.
At the same time, taxes on domestic flights will be slashed by 50 per cent, in what will be a major boost to firms focusing on short haul journeys.
Aviation bosses say the new ultra-long haul charge will unfairly punish carriers who have faced major disruption and a huge drop in passenger numbers since March last year due to Covid.
However, the Government chief scientific adviser today said Britons should be reducing the amount of flights they take.
Sir Patrick Vallance said that Britons should look to use more active travel – such as walking and cycling – and rather than domestic flights should use trains instead.
It comes as Rishi Sunak, in yesterday’s autumn budget, announced plans for a new ultra-long haul charge for airline passengers travelling to long-distance destinations.
An ‘astounding’ tax increase on ultra-long haul flights will ‘penalise’ a global Britain and be a further blow to airlines recovering from the impact of Covid, aviation chiefs have warned. Library image of a flight landing at Heathrow airport
Willie Walsh, head of body trade body Iata, said it was ‘astounding that the Chancellor thinks now is the time to raise the cost of flying’. Sir Patrick Vallance said that Britons should look to use more active travel – such as walking and cycling – and rather than domestic flights should use trains instead.
The charge, which will be brought in from April 2023, is a new level on top of the current long distance charge.
Current long haul destinations, such as the US, Dubai and Brazil, will remain in the current long haul area of air passenger duty – which will rise from £82 to £87.
But even longer haul destinations will now be moved into a new area, the ultra-long haul zone, which will be charged at £91.
Luis Gallego, boss of British Airways owner IAG, said that increasing APD on long-haul flights ‘will penalise Global Britain’.
He also said the move will ‘limit the airlines’ ability to invest in green technologies’.
Meanwhile, Willie Walsh, Mr Gallego’s predecessor and now head of body Iata, told the Telegraph: ‘It is astounding that the Chancellor thinks now is the time to raise the cost of flying.
‘Masquerading this cash grab as a green tax the week before Cop26 is the height of political hypocrisy that people are fed up with.’
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson added: ‘The announcement of a new ultra-long haul band for Air Passenger Duty (APD) is fundamentally flawed, as it will fail to reward increased efficiency or reduced carbon emissions.
‘Passengers will pay the same rate of APD whether flying with modern, fuel efficient airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, or those with a fleet of older, less efficient aircraft.
‘Increasing the highest long-haul taxes in the world will make the UK less competitive while hindering, rather than supporting, investment in sustainable aviation fuels, which are essential for decarbonising long haul aviation.
‘With economic recovery at stake, UK Government has missed a vital opportunity to lower the cost of long haul travel for UK businesses and consumers by reducing APD, at a crucial time when airlines are focussing on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.’
The decision to increase the tax on long haul flights was announced alongside a cut to domestic flight tax, which will drop from £12 to £6.50.
The move will mean a further 400,000 taking domestic flights a year, according to estimates by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).
But today the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said Britons needed to be taking less flights in order to help meet the global aim of keeping climate change rises below 1.5C.
Luis Gallego, boss of British Airways owner IAG, said that increasing APD on long-haul flights ‘will penalise Global Britain’
Rishi Sunak, in yesterday’s autumn budget, announced plans for a new ultra-long haul charge for airline passengers travelling to long-distance destinations
Speaking from Polar research ship Sir David Attenborough, moored at Greenwich today, he said: ‘I think many people don’t know what they need to do and I think one of the messages that needs to come out is that there are little things we can do and these little things aggregate across millions to make quite a big impact.
‘I cycle to work every day for example, I think using active transport, work out how much meat we are eating, perhaps reduce that a little bit, I’ve done that as well, and thinking about reducing the amount of flights we take and using other forms of transport.
‘Not abolishing those things, but actually just reducing these things makes a difference.
Asked about the Government reducing flight duty, he said in the long term there were ‘technological solutions that need investment’, such as short haul electronic flights and sustainable aviation fuels.
Asked in the short haul if he wanted to see more people taking domestic flights, he said: ‘No I don’t. I think all of us should try and cut that back a bit. Using trains, using active transport, where you can, actually do make a difference when they aggregate across millions of people.’