Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Air duty - Goverment gets it wrong

In matters of travel Governments frequently get it wrong. Alistair Darling's announcement that air passenger duty is to be retained and increased is no exception.

The increases duty to be paid by economy short hall travellers - up £1 next November and £2 in late 2010 - are too small to be a deterrent.

They also look grossly unfair compared with the swingeing increases to be imposed on those in premium economy on very long flights, including those Australia and New Zealand. They will pay £15 more next year and a further £25 extra from the following November.

That might just prove a deterrent, especially for couples. It is also, surely, a much bigger rise as a proportion of the fare than that faced by passengers flying economy in Europe.

It will hit small businesses whose staff use premium economy to cut the cost of what they see as essential business trips. And it will penalise leisure travellers prepared to pay extra for a little more leg room. Remember: we are not talking about full blown business class and flat beds here.

The abandonment of an earlier plan to switch to a tax on flights rather than individual passengers is disappointing from a green standpoint. While I remain sceptical that reductions in air travel an make a huge difference to global warming any cut is worthwhile. So it seems odd that the Government is scrapping proposals which might have encouraged fuel saving for one which will have no discernible impact on gratuitous, short haul flying and which will, at the same time, hammer developing long haul destinations which need the money tourists bring.

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