The U.K.'s air transport industry is trying to awaken popular resentment over the government's plans to further increase charges on flying in the U.K.
Industry critics of the U.K. policy argue the country already has the most hostile tax environment globally to aviation. Now, the already controversial air passenger duty (APD), taxed on all short- and long-haul flights from the U.K, will increase again in 2012 by double the rate of inflation, George Osborne, the Chancellor announced in this year’s budget.
But industry is fighting back, launching a public campaign today under the banner “Hands off our holiday”.
It is a renewed effort to raise awareness of the tax, which is being launched today at airports around the country opposing this levy. The goal is to enlist the backing of families and raise their awareness of the costs they have to carry as they go on holiday.
The hearts and minds campaign points out that a family of four traveling to the U.S. pays at least £240 in taxes alone. The Airport Operators Association’s (AOA) chief executive Darren Caplan says that “working families deserve a break”.
According to the AOA, in the last five years APD has already increased 140% on short-haul and 325% on long-haul flights. It says three out of four people polled in a recent survey think that APD should be frozen in the 2012 budget. Of those polled in the independent survey, four out of five weren’t even aware of the plans to increase the tax further in the next budget.
Industry has already been very vocal against APD, and this latest campaign, backed by lobby groups such as BATA and BAR-UK, is just the latest effort to get government to scrap, or at the very least freeze APD.
At the outsete APD was sold as a green tax, but it has long been disconnected from airline emissions. It has become simply a revenue generator for the government.
The green tax only comes into place next year when aviation is included in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The exact ticket cost of the inclusion in the ETS is yet to be fully realized, but it will lead, in effect, to some level of double taxation on all flights from the U.K.
Industry officials contend the cost of APD is not just to travelers; they argue the U.K. tourism industry also is hurt.
The debate about APD and impact on ordinary families and the larger U.K. economy once more underscores how the government's lack of a clear air transportation policy is having negative effects on the aviation industry specifically and the broader economy more generally. It is time for London to take a step back -- pause from its revenue raising agenda -- and undertake a serious economic impact assessment, looking not just at what revenues are raised from aviation taxes, but what revenues are lost as a result.
A campaigner raising awareness at London's Gatwick airport