AIRPORT bosses last night joined calls for the government to address an “unfair” tax on passengers, as rising fuel prices put further pressure on air links to the region.
Newcastle International Airport is backing Fair Tax on Flying, a national campaign being launched by an alliance of over 25 airlines, airports and tour operators to tackle Air Passenger Duty (APD).
Members, including the Association of British Travel Agents and British Airways intend to lobby the Government on the tax, which sees UK holidaymakers pay the highest rate in Europe, a position that they argue is unacceptable. The levy has increased by 2600% since it was first introduced in 1994, and in 2009 The Journal launched our Tax Too Far campaign in opposition to continued steep rises.
Graeme Mason, director of corporate affairs at Newcastle Airport, warned of the need to address the levy, which has a disproportionate impact on smaller airports, which are crucial to regional economies.
His comments came as fuel hikes brought on by continuing unrest in the Middle East forced some airlines to increase ticket prices, creating the potential for further strain on passenger numbers.
Mr Mason said: “We welcome the decision to actively lobby the Government on air passenger duty.
“The launch of their campaign comes after The Journal became the first newspaper in the country to oppose airline tax hikes, so they are following the North East’s lead on this issue.
“We have tried to resist increases but each time air passenger duty has increased the impact on regional routes has grown, and this has taken place during a recession. Now we have the added pressure of increases in fuel prices.
“I don’t think the airlines who have added the fuel levy have had any choice but to pass the increases on to customers. It’s an unfortunate by-product of what’s going on in places like Libya that this has happened.
“The levy just puts an even greater strain on routes being operated from regional airports.”
Some experts have predicted the Government will announce a full consultation with industry leaders on air taxation as part of the coming budget.
The speculation comes after EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall expressed frustration at the coalition Government’s slow progress on reforming APD last week, and Tim Jeans, a former commercial director at Ryanair, said the golden age for “low, low fares” was coming to an end.
His comments appeared prophetic as Thomas Cook announced the continuing unrest in the Middle East and resultant high oil prices, had forced them to increase the price of a long-haul family holiday for four by £160. However Newcastle Airport yesterday insisted there were still bargains to be had with airlines flying from their terminal.
Mr Mason said: “Air passenger duty and rising fuel costs don’t help airlines deliver low fares, and this will become more difficult, but there are still bargains to be had. There are still cheap flights out there if you shop around and buy early.
“With the Budget approaching we would urge the Government to use air passenger duty as an instrument to grow air travel within the UK and help spread wealth to the regions.
“The Government has said time and again they want to kick-start the economy. This is their chance.”