Opinion: The government is getting the message from A Fair Tax on Flying

Opinion: The government is getting the message from A Fair Tax on Flying

Luke Pollard, head of public affairs at Abta and a founding member of the Fair Tax on Flying campaign

Think back 18 months. Can you remember what the debate around aviation taxes was like?

Our industry was split down the middle between those companies who favoured a per-plane tax and those who wanted to stick with Air Passenger Duty (APD) as a per-ticket tax.

In the melee between the budget, chartered and scheduled airlines, the government was progressively hiking taxes every year with customers paying more and more to step on to an aircraft.

The industry was not ‘speaking with one voice’ – or so the critique from the government went. The penalty for not speaking in unison was that legitimate concerns, however put, could be ignored because the sector could not agree on a single line to take.

But a year ago, the trade put aside commercial differences and agreed to work together in a single campaign to present an alternative to hiking APD at every budget. Airlines, airports, tourism organisations, destinations and business groups met together in Abta’s Park Street offices and agreed to campaign for ‘A Fair Tax on Flying’.

Twelve months on, our industry speaks with near enough a single voice on the most significant, damaging aspects of APD. Collectively, we have presented a case to Government for reform of the way the tax works and a new approach to simply hiking taxes each year.

In calling for a fairer tax, we have called for a new way of looking at aviation taxation and aviation. Flying, we argue, can be part of the solution to the economic downturn with connectivity and affordable flying creating an opportunity to open new markets for British products and services and to keep us competitive.

Readers will know there is more that needs to be done in the long-running dispute with HM Treasury over taxes on flying.

While we have been able to toast successes in addressing the ridiculous situation in Northern Ireland, which was haemorrhaging customers to Dublin due to a more favourable tax regime, we have not yet convinced the chancellor to freeze APD in Great Britain.

When the campaign was first formed, we genuinely took the treasury by surprise. By uniting around a few simple and sensible requests of government we’ve been able to present a stronger case.

Achieving a fairer tax on flying will not happen overnight. It takes considerable effort, energy and engagement to change the treasury’s mind about a tax policy that brings in billions each year.

But it is a fight worth fighting and as the campaign celebrates its first anniversary we need to be conscious that this battle will take time, but that we achieve more when we work together than we ever can alone.


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