MPs have called for air passenger duty (APD) to be abolished on most flights out of Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has recommended the Treasury abolish APD on short and medium-haul flights from the region, currently in tax bands A and B. This would include flights to the US.
The MPs say the implications of not scrapping the tax on most flights “are deeply troubling”.
However, the committee said it accepts the Treasury will not remove APD on all UK flights “in the near future”. It has also come out against devolving responsibility for APD to the Northern Ireland government.
In a report issued this morning, the MPs say: “For many people . . . travelling by air is not a luxury.”
They argue the land border with the Republic of Ireland makes the North a special case. “The disparity between UK APD and the Irish ATT [of euro3 per passenger] is undermining the Northern Ireland aviation sector with passengers preferring to travel via airports in the Republic of Ireland.”
The suggestion of merging APD bands A and B and abolishing them in Northern Ireland came from the two Belfast airports, Belfast City and Belfast International.
EasyJet immediately welcomed the report. The carrier’s UK director Paul Simmons said: “Northern Ireland’s geographic position throws into stark relief the impact of APD on the economy.”
Abta has also recommended to the government that Northern Ireland be treated as a special case.
Doreen McKenzie, proprietor of Knock Travel and Abta NI spokeswoman said: “This recommendation by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is an important first step in getting the government to see just how damaging APD is to the travel industry and wider economy in Northern Ireland.
“Unlike other parts of the UK, our customers have the option of avoiding the heavy cost of APD by simply making a short car journey over the border and many are doing precisely that.”
Luke Pollard, Abta head of public affairs, said: “The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and Abta’s recommendation to abolish Air Passenger Duty is essential to prevent further damage to the economy of the province. Northern Ireland clearly represents a special case from the rest of the United Kingdom because of the shared land border.”
The report notes APD in Northern Ireland is due to raise £60 million in 2012-13.
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