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Published on Monday, September 7, 2020

Pressure grows to end quarantine fiasco and suspend departure tax

The government has hinted that Air Passenger Duty could be suspended in the autumn budget amid mounting pressure to provide respite for airlines and the wider industry.

A statement from the treasury confirmed that a consultation on aviation tax reform would take place.

"As part of this, the Government will consider the case for changing the air passenger duty (APD) treatment of domestic flights, such as reintroducing a return leg exemption, and for increasing the number of international distance bands," the statement said.

There is also growing momentum to overhaul the haphazard quarantine policy which has often left the industry and consumers baffled.

Writing in the Telegraph today, TUI UK and Ireland Managing Director Andrew Flintham said testing would be a 'massive step forward'. 

A failure to act would leave 'the embers of an industry that once shone brightly on the world stage', he wrote.     

According to the Daily Mail, at least 24 MPs, including the chairman of the influential 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady, are pressing chancellor Rishi Sunak to suspend APD until the end of summer 2021.

The transport committee has also called for a six-month APD suspension.

Research consultancy York Aviation claimed that waiving the duty would generate £8billion for the economy.

According to reports, MP Henry Smith, whose constituency includes Gatwick airport, has written to Sunak saying: "If we maintain our levels of air passenger duty, it will become a "tax on recovery" as flying is the only viable route for investors and business people to approach and service existing and potential new markets."

TUI UK and Ireland Managing Director Andrew Flintham warned in the Telegraph that many companies would not survive unless the current 'blunt' approach was changed.

He wrote: "Now I know some people don't feel comfortable going on holiday at the moment. Others may feel it's irresponsible. But for many holidays are fundamentally important to their well-being.

"It's the opportunity to switch off, to re-connect with friends and family, forget about the stresses and worries of the last few months and focus on the future.

"But what happens if travelling becomes so uncertain and people stop booking? Or worse, the blunt approach to travel advice and quarantine becomes so restrictive that there's nowhere to travel to? Businesses will fail. And those great value holidays in the future will be harder to find.

"If we enter the winter season without sensible solutions, the outlook only gets worse."

He said TUI and the industry wants to work with the government on a 'sensible approach' to testing and regional corridors and to move away from the 'one size fits all approach to travel advice and blanket quarantine'.   

"We appreciate that the Government must balance public health at all times," Flintham continued. "As an industry we are highly regulated, and importance has always been placed on the health, safety and welfare of customers and colleagues.

"We therefore understand the balance the Government faces. However, I cannot understand why the risk of visiting a destination with no, or very low numbers of Covid-19, is deemed the same as going somewhere there are high infection rates.

"Critically, for testing to make a real difference it must be universally available and the Government should be investing in embedding the technology and kick-starting this process as soon as possible.  

"This would be a massive step forward, but we also need to be more data driven and look at regional specific statistics rather than taking a blanket approach.  

"I personally think the Welsh Government approach was along the right lines this week and it was a first step towards a nuanced regional approach." 

Calling for the suspension of APD, Sir Graham Brady said: "The UK levies the highest rate of tax in the world on air passengers.

"After months in which the Government has effectively shut down much of our aviation industry, particularly through its blunt instrument of quarantine, it is unrealistic to think the goose will continue laying golden eggs.

"A period of relief for APD would help the sector get back in the air."

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  • airfare taxes out of control

    in Australia, it costs nearly AUD$200 in govt taxes for an adult to fly to New Zealand return. This is a disincentive to fly to NZ. Talk of making NZ a "domestic" destination has come to nothing.

    By Michael Anderson, Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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