The Scottish referendum and air passenger duty: Scot free

MUCH is at stake in this September’s referendum on Scottish independence. Business travellers are not exempt from its repercussions. As Buying Business Travel recently noted, the pro-independence white paper “Scotland’s future”, released by the Scottish government in November, vows that if the country secedes from the rest of the United Kingdom it would “cut Air Passenger Duty by 50%, with a view to eventually abolishing it.” As Gulliver noted last year, Britain has among the world’s highest taxes on air travellers:Britain’s expensive Air Passenger Duty (APD), a departure tax levied on outgoing passengers…, is as high as £184 for long-haul business tickets, and comes on top of pricey airport surcharges that, at Heathrow airport, will increase by 40% in real terms over the next five years. This makes Britain an expensive place to visit—or even change planes in. In France, air-departure taxes are ten times lower than they are in Britain, and in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, APD has been axed altogether.It is a complicated issue. Although British airlines hate APD, especially as tough competition from continental European carriers for transatlantic passengers means they find it hard to pass on the whole cost to customers, there is not much evidence that low airline taxes are correlated with broad economic success. My colleague has called …

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