Photo by Rex FeaturesAbta is spearheading an unprecedented industry-wide alliance to lobby the government for a Fair Tax on Flying.


The bosses of British Airways, Tui Travel and Thomas Cook are among 25 of the biggest names in travel on a letter sent to chancellor George Osborne demanding no further rise in tax on aviation ahead of the Budget on March 23.


However, the battle won’t end there. The Fair Tax coalition foresees a lengthy campaign through this year and beyond to ensure ministers appreciate the value of tourism, and consumers understand the impact of Air Passenger Duty (APD) on holiday spending.


Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “APD is having a damaging impact on outbound businesses and customers, and it is damaging the UK economy and inbound travel.”


The campaign will focus on lobbying the government for the next three weeks. That first phase will end with the Budget and be followed by an extended effort to reach consumers, including through high street agents.


Previous attempts to unite the industry on APD have been weakened by a divide between airlines, as some sought a switch to a Per Plane Duty (PPD) – led by easyJet and supported by Abta, Tui Travel and Thomas Cook – and others, led by BA and Virgin Atlantic, insisted a per-plane tax would be more damaging.


Now most have put aside their differences to demand no further rise in the overall tax on flying. The one major exception is easyJet, which retains hopes Osborne will signal a switch away from APD later this month. But Tanzer said: “We are in discussion with easyJet.”


The Abta chief told Travel Weekly: “The industry has not been good at taking a campaign like this forward in the past. But this coalition was straightforward to put together because we agree the important thing is the quantum level of tax.


“APD is affecting an industry the government says is strategically important. This is not just the industry moaning about tax.


“Economically, APD makes no sense. It flies in the face of what the government says it is trying to achieve.”


He added: “We know the government is in a tax hole. But the only way out is growth. It is political madness to damage aviation.”


Tanzer insisted: “I’m confident of getting our message across and the government taking it onboard. The government says it has a programme to grow UK tourism and the tax structure will not do that. It is inconsistent with what the Treasury wants to do.”


The coalition includes airlines BMI, Monarch, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2, retailers The Co-operative Travel and lastminute.com, airport operator BAA, Gatwick airport and the Airport Operators’ Association, airline groups BAR UK and BATA, destination bodies Antor and the Caribbean Council, and UK tourism organisations the Tourism Alliance and UKinbound.


Its members demand the Treasury apply five tests of fairness to its policy on aviation tax.