Azara Blog: UK airlines complain about air passenger duty being doubled

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Date published: 2007/01/23

The BBC says:

Chancellor Gordon Brown's air passenger tax has been attacked by three of the UK's leading airlines as the wrong way to fight climate change.

British Airways, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, appearing jointly before MPs for the first time, insisted they were serious about cutting emissions.

But Mr Brown's air passenger duty did not create an incentive to invest in cleaner technology, they said.

All three backed carbon trading as the best way to reduce emissions.

In his November pre-Budget report, Mr Brown increased air passenger duty (APD) from £5 to £10 on short haul flights. Long haul passengers will pay up to £80 extra.

But Barry Humphreys, Virgin Atlantic's director of external affairs and route development, said the chancellor's scheme was "a poor environmental tax".

"It does not achieve any environmental objectives. There must be better ways of achieving those objectives," he told the Commons Treasury Committee.

He said the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which airlines are due to join in 2012, was a more effective system.

He said Virgin Atlantic, which has said it will donate future profits to developing green technology, was trying to persuade US airlines to join a global carbon trading scheme, although the final decision would be taken at government level.

They "would be far happier" with the tax "if the money collected by the chancellor was used for environmental purposes", said Mr Humphreys.

Andrew Kershaw, British Airways' environmental affairs manager, called on air passenger duty to be replaced by a carbon trading scheme.

"We believe it would be more suitable to have something more in line with emissions trading rather than based on taxation, which we don't believe is environmentally effective.

"Equally, we believe that once emissions trading was in place as a more effective mechanism, there would be no purpose in having an APD or other environmental tax."

Andrew Barker, EasyJet's planning director, also criticised the chancellor's tax.

"The problem with any tax is that it takes money away from us to invest in the new technology that reduces emissions."

He added: "If we pay tax, it has to be something that forces good behaviour on airlines and forces the end result of fewer emissions."

Roger Wiltshire, of the British Air Transport Association (BATA), dismissed reports that allowing aviation into the European emissions trading scheme would create windfall profits for airlines from the allocation of carbon quotas.

"Quite frankly we laughed when we heard that comment. The only way an airline in an overall capped scheme could make a profit would be to close up shop," he said.

The airline could sell all of its carbon quotas, but then it would have to cease trading, he explained.

Gordon Brown has never seen a tax he didn't like. And he knew that he would receive no negative coverage of this particular tax by the chattering classes in the media. And he was indeed encouraged to make this move by the pseudo-environmentalists who now dominate the Tory, Lib Dem and Green parties. The fact that air passenger duty has no direct relationship with emissions is entirely lost on these second-rate and third-rate politicians. Emissions trading is definitely a more sensible option (if implemented sensibly) but even better would have been a tax on airline fuel. Emissions trading is perverse in that airlines that are rubbish, and so lose market share, benefit, and airlines that are successful are penalised. Of course the so-called environmentalists just want to destroy airlines, and they don't really care how it is done, so their idea is just to tax air travel to death, no matter whether the tax has any direct relationship with the environmental damage caused, and no matter that other sources of carbon, for example train travel, pay no carbon tax (indeed train travel incurs a negative carbon tax because it is subsidised).

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