Posted on Wednesday 3 December 2014 by Ulster Business

Airport tax tweak doesnt go far enough

Plans to abolish airport passenger duty (APD) for under 16 and 12 year-olds is welcome but Northern Ireland needs full control of the tax if its to compete with those in the Republic, airports and airlines have said.

Graham Keddie, chief executive of Belfast International Airport, said the plans announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement will alleviate the financial burden for flying families but don’t go far enough.

“Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all and for that reason, we compliment the government on this measure,” he said. "APD is a regressive tax that blocks growth in tourism and the route network and places Northern Ireland, because of our reliance on air travel, at a disproportionate disadvantage to all other regions of the UK.”

The chancellor announced that APD will be abolished for children under the age of 12 from May 2015 and for those under the age of 16 in 2016.

Mr Keddie said more needs to be done to allow him to compete on a more even footing with Dublin Airport.

“There are sound reasons to seek to have APD devolved to Belfast so that local politicians can take the decision to consign it to history and instead invest in the aviation sector that is capable of creating thousands of new jobs by enabling us to compete on an equal footing with Dublin where the passenger tax was abolished.”

Brian Ambrose, chief executive of George Best Belfast City Airport said the abolition of the tax for under 12s and under 16s is good news for his business but agreed that APD should be removed completely.

“It is increasingly apparent that the ultimate removal of APD would be good for business, good for tourism and good for government," he said.

Flybe’s Chief Executive Saad Hammad, didn't think the Chancellor's proposals went far enough.

“This is just tinkering at the edges and represents a missed opportunity by The Chancellor to show that he is serious about the economic regeneration of the UK regions,” he said. “It’s time for the Chancellor to seriously listen to the UK regions and deliver reform quickly, to ensure the government does not inflict further damage to the UK’s aspirations for economic growth.”

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