Research: Public is critical of Air Passenger Duty - but too few know the facts

Research: Public is critical of Air Passenger Duty - but too few know the facts

Twice as many UK adults believe Air Passenger Duty (APD) should be scrapped or reduced as those who believe the tax is ‘fair’.

Exclusive research by TNS Research International for Travel Weekly suggests 43% of UK adults believe APD should be cut or removed, while just 20% consider air passengers can afford to pay it.

However, almost two out of five (38%) have never heard of APD – suggesting industry pressure groups such as the Abta-led A Fair Tax On Flying coalition face a challenge if they are to develop consumer awareness of the levy's impact.

The government’s freeze on APD in March was approved by 38% of respondents, with a higher approval rate among the better off (46%) and lower among the poorest paid (26%).

The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults found half of those who flew long-haul in the past year thought the freeze ‘fair’.

The Treasury’s intention to raise APD in line with inflation next April appeared unfair to 47% and fair to only 22%, with a clear split according to household income – one in three in managerial and professional positions thought it fair, but only one in 10 in unskilled work.

Forty-three percent of UK adults believe APS should be cut or removed  Thirty-eight percent of UK adults have never heard of Air Passenger Duty

One in two of those surveyed sided with the leisure industry’s argument that overseas transfer passengers flying through the UK should pay tax. The government rejected this in March, accepting the arguments of British Airways and Heathrow operator BAA that extending APD to transfer passengers would drive them from the UK – so they remain exempt.

The research found half the population (51%) considered the rate of APD on flights to the Caribbean unfair, since it is more than to Hawaii.

A similar proportion (52%) thought it unfair that APD on premium economy seats is the same as on first class.

Perception of APD as a ‘fair’ tax – because air passengers “can afford to fly” – appeared highest among the over-55s and lowest among 16 to 34-year-olds.

London and the southeast showed the least support for APD, with just 14% believing the tax on flying fair. But London also had the lowest rate in favour of scrapping the tax (16%) compared with 35% in the northeast.

Demand that APD be scrapped was strongest among those who fly most often – at almost double the rate of the population as a whole. However, those who fly three times a year showed the lowest rate of support for scrapping the tax.

Young adults were least likely to be aware of APD – 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds had never heard of it, compared with 27% of those aged 45-64. More than half of those who had not taken an overseas holiday (52%) had not heard of the tax.

Among the audience most likely to relate to the industry’s arguments – respondents who had flown long-haul in the past 12 months – 21% thought APD ‘fair’, 28% wanted it scrapped, 27% favoured a rate reduction and 24% were oblivious to the tax.

More than three out of four respondents showed no interest in the options in the current Treasury consultation on APD reform, due to close on July 17. Just 15% said they would favour a rise in APD on short-haul flights to allow a cut in tax on long-haul.

TNS Research International carried out face-to-face interviews among 2,025 UK adults at the beginning of April as part of a TNS Omnibus survey.

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