Voters call for Air Passenger Duty rates to be fair across the UK

A ComRes poll[1] of the 40 most marginal constituencies commissioned by the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade association representing UK airports, found that:

  • Three in four voters (75%) agree that if passengers in Scotland were able to pay a lower rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD), this would not be fair to passengers in the rest of the UK.
  • Two thirds (68%) also think that in the event of the Scottish Government reducing APD by 50%, as they have promised to do, the UK Government should commit to immediately matching this across the whole of the UK.
  • The vast majority of voters in marginal constituencies (78%) agree that APD rates should be consistent across the UK , with more than half (54%) strongly agreeing with this statement.

Last November, the Smith Commission’s report recommended that APD raised at Scottish airports should be devolved to the Scottish Government, and the UK Government and the main UK political parties have accepted this recommendation. Given the Scottish Government’s public commitment to reduce APD on flights departing from Scottish airports by 50%, to be followed by eventual abolition, there is a real chance that the rest of the UK will be in a disadvantaged position, having to pay comparatively higher taxes on flights – and voters across the UK feel that this would be unfair.

The ambition of the Scottish Government to reduce APD does not come as a surprise. A number of European countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland have abolished their departure taxes in recent years. Austria, France, Germany and Italy are the only other EU countries that continue to levy a similar duty on passengers, although none charges passengers as high a rate as the UK does.

The AOA is a member of A Fair Tax on Flying – a coalition of aviation, travel and tourism partners – who are warning that having varying levels of APD across the UK could see the Scottish economy soar whilst having a detrimental impact on the rest of the UK.

Research by PwC has shown that reducing or scrapping APD would bring significant benefits such as creating jobs, boosting the economy and increasing overall revenues to the Treasury. This will not only boost the travel and tourism sector – which supports 3 million UK jobs and contributes £54.2bn (3.8%) of UK GDP – but will benefit the wider UK economy and consumers. Aviation alone contributes £52bn of UK GDP and generates £8bn in Treasury revenues.

A Fair Tax on Flying is calling on the Government to commit to matching any reduction in APD in Scotland across the whole of the UK.

Tim Alderslade, spokesperson from the Airport Operators Association, said:

“We cannot have a situation whereby the Scottish Government is able to undercut the rest of the UK with respect to air taxation. The Chancellor is on record as saying that he will not allow airports in the rest of the UK to be disadvantaged by Scotland being able to levy a substantially reduced level of APD. As HMRC has already concluded, all this would do is distort competition and result in passengers and airlines relocating to airports north of the border.

“The UK is rightly proud of the competitive nature of its aviation market and this should not be undermined at any cost. We call upon all political parties to work together to ensure that devolution to Scotland does not unfairly penalise communities and passengers in the rest of the UK.”


Note to Editor

  • Survey of 1,004 Great British adults during 31/01/15 – 10/02/15. Representative of adults living in the 40 most marginal constituencies where the Conservatives and Labour shared first and second place between them at the last General Election in 2010. A link to the results can be found here –
  • A Fair Tax on Flying campaign members: Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, ABTA – the Travel Association, Airport Operators Association, American Airlines, Association of National Tourist Offices and Representatives, Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, British Airline Pilots’ Association, British Air Transport Association, Bristol Airport, British Airways, Business West, Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce, Caribbean Council, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, Essex Chamber of Commerce, European Tour Operators Association, Fife Chamber of Commerce, Gatwick Airport, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Guild of Travel Management Companies, Heathrow Airport, Kent Channel Chamber of Commerce, Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Manchester Airports Group, Newcastle Airport, PATA, Royal Brunei Airlines, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Alliance, TUI Travel PLC, UKinbound, Unite the Union, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Visit USA.

[1] ComRes poll of the 40 most marginal constituencies, February 2015.