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APD changes fly in the face of climate emergency

A reduction in APD is a boost to Northern Ireland’s airports, but won’t take effect until 2023
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE Chancellor’s decision to reduce air passenger duty (APD) by 50 per cent for short-haul internal UK flights from April 2023 has earned praise and criticism in equal measure.

The unwelcome tax on flights has made it more expensive to visit family and friends in Britain, to go on holiday or to do business.

It has also been a cost barrier for those from other parts of the UK to fly into Belfast or Derry, with the tourism sector particularly badly affected.

Belfast City Airport chief executive Matthew Hall said: “The importance of air connectivity as an economic driver for the region cannot be underestimated.

“But this reduction is only a half-way house in terms of solving a problem which has placed the aviation sector in Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage with other regions in attracting new airlines and routes.

“It does little in the short term to alleviate a sector still decimated by Covid.”

Others argue that the APD reduction flies in the face of the climate emergency.

Friends of the Earth reacted with dismay, with its head of policy Mike Childs saying: “This is an astonishing move. The Chancellor should be making it cheaper for people to travel around the country by train, not carbon-guzzling planes.”

Mr Sunak also increased APD for flights of over 5,500 miles, which includes places such as Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, which are popular destinations for business and leisure travellers.

APD is currently charged in two tax bands - for flights of up to 2,000 miles and for trips of more than 2,000 miles.

People on long-haul flights already pay £80 duty. Domestic flights are charged the short-haul rate of £26 for return travel. While APD is paid by the airlines, much of the cost tends to be passed on to travellers.

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