Boris Johnson wants to make domestic flights cheaper

Mar 10, 2021

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to make it cheaper to fly domestically.

On Wednesday, Johnson said that he wants to cut air passenger duty tax on flights within the U.K. in an effort to boost domestic connections.

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According to the government, a consultation will look at options to make that happen. Current ideas include creating a new, lower air passenger duty (APD) rate for domestic flights or exempting return itineraries from the tax.

“I want to cut passenger duty on domestic flights so we can support connectivity across the country,” Johnson said in a statement by the Department for Transport.

As it stands, short-haul flights — including domestic flights — are charged a £13 APD fee in economy and £26 APD fee for all other cabins. Because APD is charged on flights departing from the U.K., APD is charged on both legs of a domestic itinerary.

In his budget announcement last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak revealed that the U.K. will increase APD tax on long-haul flights. However, Sunak did note that short-haul — including domestic — APD will be frozen at the current level for the next two tax years.

Related: Flying from the UK is about to get more expensive because of Air Passenger Duty increase

The cut in domestic APD tax will likely be welcomed by the beleaguered airline and tourism industries, as they struggle to mount a comeback in a world post-COVID-19. Earlier this year, some airlines had revealed domestic route network expansions in order to take advantage of an expected boom in demand for travellers who want a holiday but don’t necessarily want to travel abroad.

Environmentalist groups have opposed Johnson’s announcement on Wednesday to lower domestic APD taxes, saying it would be “nonsensical” and “beggared belief” in the fight against climate change, according to The Guardian.

Dubbed by some as the summer of the staycation, airlines and other tour operators have indicated an increase in bookings following the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown. In that announcement, Johnson unveiled that some domestic holidays may be permitted to resume from 12 April as holiday lets may be permitted to reopen. As of 17 May at the earliest, domestic hotels and hostels may be permitted to reopen.

Related: What does the roadmap out of lockdown mean for travel?

First introduced in 1994, APD is a tax charged to each passenger at least 16 years old who is departing from a U.K. airport. Airlines charge the tax as part of the ticket price and then pay it to the government, though the exact amount of the fee varies depending on flight length and class of service.

The Treasury expects that APD will raise £600 million in the 2020-2021 tax year, a massive drop compared to the nearly £3.7 billion it raised prior to the coronavirus pandemic-related downturn in travel.

Featured photo by View Pictures/Getty Images.

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