Air Passenger Duty

19 March 2015

Air Passenger Duty (APD) was introduced in 1994 with a £5 rate for the UK/EU and £10 elsewhere.

Since then, it’s seen several increases and a doubling for passengers travelling other than in economy class (Reduced Rate = economy class; Standard Rate = premium class).

Four geographical bands were introduced in 2009 based on the distance from London to the capital city of the country concerned (with the exception of the Russian Federation which is split east and west of the Urals).

The Government devolved APD on direct long-haul flights from Northern Ireland to the NI Executive in 2013.  On 22 January 2015, it announced the devolution of APD to Scotland following the Smith Commission recommendations in the wake of the no vote on Scottish independence. This devolution will be part of the Scotland Bill which will begin its Parliamentary stages after the General Election in May. Once the Bill is given assent, the Scottish Parliament will lay down its own legislation to enact a reduction in APD from a date to be specified.

On 27 February the Government announced that, in the next Parliament, they will consider devolving APD in Wales.

APD rates increased in line with inflation from 1 April 2015 and the RPI uprating will continue in 2016.

It was announced in the March 2014 Budget that, from April 2015, bands C and D will be abolished and those destinations will be charged at band B rates.

In the December 2014 Autumn Statement, it was announced that APD on economy flights for children under 12 will be abolished from 1 May 2015, and for under 16s from 1 March 2016. 

The future rates are shown alongside the current ones:

Bands (approximate distance in miles for the UK) Reduced rate  Standard rate
  Rate from 1 April 2015 Rate from 1 April 2016 Rate from 1 April 2015 Rate from 1 April 2016
Band A (0-2000 miles) £13 £13 £26 £26
Band B (over 2000 miles*) £71 £73 £142 £146
*from April 2015 this includes all long-haul flights currently in band C or D
  • From 1 January 2013 the rates for direct long-haul flights from NI were devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive, and set at £0. Direct long haul journeys from NI are those where the first part of the journey is to a destination outside Band A.

The tables specifying which countries and territories fall into each of the APD bands can be found on the HM Revenue & Customs website (Appendix A).

In late 2013, HM Treasury confirmed that extra leg room seats in economy class would not attract the Standard Rate but would be charged at the Reduced Rate.

Per the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts, APD is expected to provide £3.2bn receipts in 2014-15, rising to £3.9bn by 2018-19. In the 20 years since its inception, APD has contributed £27 billion to HM Treasury.

ABTA’s position

ABTA accepts that aviation should pay its proper environmental cost but believes that cost is more than reflected in the current APD levels. This is particularly true with the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

ABTA has campaigned vigorously with its trade partners through the A Fair Tax on Flying campaign (see below) to have APD frozen until a proper economic impact assessment of APD is carried out by HM Treasury.

ABTA believes the general public must not be disenfranchised by the Government using economic instruments as a means of raising the costs of aviation and that UK travellers should not be penalised by a form of double taxation (APD and ETS). Tax rises are socially regressive and will impact most upon those who can least afford it and lead to families being priced out of taking flights. This is especially acute for lower socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities visiting friends and relatives abroad.

ABTA welcomed the changes to the banding system as a first step in the reform of this damaging tax. Moving all long-haul flights into Band B of APD will save passengers and businesses over £200m annually, and should boost travel and tourism as well as promote greater UK connectivity.

ABTA further welcomed the announcement by the Chancellor that APD would be scrapped on economy flights for children – a clear indication that the Government listened to the case made by the A Fair Tax on Flying campaign to ‘Scrap the Tax on Family Flights’.

ABTA has welcomed the Scottish devolution announcement as good news for passengers flying from Scotland and for Scottish airports and travel businesses.  ABTA will continue to call for a reduction in overall rates of APD across the whole of the UK to ensure that rates of APD are consistent and competitive for the benefit of the whole of UK plc and all UK consumers.  APD continues to inhibit the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to growth and employment.

A Fair Tax on Flying campaign

A fair tax on flying logoABTA is a founding member of the A Fair Tax on Flying campaign, an alliance of more than 30 leading travel organisations including airlines, airports, trade associations and destinations who believe that APD is now too high and that it is negatively impacting on the economic competitiveness of the UK. The campaign is calling on the Treasury to freeze APD pending commissioning a comprehensive study into the full economic effects of aviation tax in the UK, including its impact on employment.

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