What is Air Passenger Duty anyway?

By Kezia Saunders

Last week ELF announced that we are working with solicitors at Leigh Day and Stephanie David, a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers, on a response to the government’s consultation on changes to Air Passenger Duty. This is a crucial issue of environmental concern as APD is the UK’s only green tax on aviation!

What is APD?

Airlines pay Air Passenger Duty for every passenger flying out of the UK. The rate is calculated based on how far away the passenger’s destination is and the class in which they are travelling. Generally, the duty for commercial flights is around £13 to £180 per flight. A key point to note is that ticket prices will usually include a charge to cover this cost, meaning that it is the passenger, not the airline, that pays. 

Unlike other transport industries the aviation sector is exempt from other taxes including on fuel and VAT. This means that APD is the only green tax on aviation. To many people, this seems like a strange anomaly considering aviation accounts for an increasing proportion of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The debate around APD

There has been plenty of debate around APD since the time that it was first introduced in 1994. Voices are being raised again as the government announced intentions to change and minimise APD. Predictably, the aviation industry has long been opposed to the duty. Some commentators have raised valid criticisms of APD, including that it unfairly taxes the public instead of airlines and doesn’t reflect the actual carbon emissions of flights. However, environmentalists stand by APD as the one much-needed constraint on an industry that contributes greatly to the UK’s emissions. Many have argued that any reduction to APD would be unthinkably regressive given the need to move rapidly towards emissions-reduction.

The government is thinking about changing APD rules – maybe even removing APD for domestic flights entirely… They’re calling on interested parties to submit opinions to their open consultation that closes on June 14th.

The principle propositions in the consultation are:

To reduce or end APD on domestic flights by introducing a return flight exemption or creating a lower-rate band for domestic flights

To change rate bands for international flights

To change APD in order to fulfil government policy intentions to: increase domestic connectivity, achieve environmental targets, and generally “build back better”

ELF has some major concerns regarding the lack of data backing up the consultation’s assertions, the prospect of increased domestic air travel, the focus on air travel instead of rail, and how these plans could in any way further the UK’s environmental targets.

Read the full report here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-aviation-tax-reform 

Get involved: become a signatory!

Over the next few days ELF and our professional partners will be putting together a response to the consultation. It’s vital that, along with the airlines and transport sector, our response that stands up for the natural environment gets added to the mix. After all, it is our environment that stands to lose so much… 

We’ve had a rush of responses from concerned individuals, community groups and campaigners from the ELF network who share our concerns and want to become signatories to our response. If you would like to add your name, get in touch before the consultation closes on 14th June 2021!