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Airport boss blasts 'barking mad' passenger duty levy

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

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Newquay Cornwall Airport's managing director has hit out at the 'barking mad' tax duties being imposed on domestic air users by a government which he said 'does not want to listen'.

Al Titterington, managing director of the loss-making airport, was speaking in the slipstream of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement last Wednesday.

In it, George Osborne kept the level of Air Passenger Duty imposed on travellers on internal UK flights at £13 per passenger per flight.

But Mr Titterington said the move would do nothing to encourage people in Cornwall, or elsewhere in the UK, to use regional airports for domestic travel.

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He said: "I was hoping there was going to be a reduction in the level of APD, but I wasn't expecting it.

"The most aggravating element is that the Government is blind to the impact this will have on the UK economy.

"Travellers going from Newquay to Manchester are being asked to pay the same level of duty as those going from London to Cyprus. It is barking mad.

"Air travel for regional airports is difficult enough at a time when the economy is stagnant and not likely to grow in the next five years.

"We keep fighting this, but keeping APD at the same level is like having both hands – and both feet – tied."

Mr Titterington said that although the levy has been frozen for now, it will increase to £16 per passenger per flight by 2016.

"Aviation needs to be stopped being used as a cash cow which continues to be milked. Price sensitivity is forcing people to look at other modes of transport which is not helping. We are a council-owned airport which runs at a loss, but it seems the Government does not want to listen."

Mr Titterington said he had voiced his concerns directly to the Chancellor when he visited Newquay, but added: "It went in one ear and out the other."

"The pain does not go away. We have to keep on trying to bring the damage this is doing to the attention of the government. At some point they will have to listen – but I am not holding my breath."

His comments were echoed by airline giant Flybe, which operates flights from Exeter International Airport.

Head of communications Niall Duffy urged the Chancellor to 'see the error' of continuing his tax on domestic plane passengers and called on the Government to 'listen to the regions'.

He said: "It was a small blessing that the level of APD was not increased. But our biggest bugbear is that passengers on domestic flights are clobbered by this duty both ways – on their outward journey and return."

Pointing out that UK domestic air travel has declined by 20% since 2007, he said regional airports and the companies which fly out of them will continue to suffer until 'the Chancellor sees the error' of imposing this level of duty on internal flights.

Mr Duffy said that Flybe passengers had cumulatively paid £64 million in air duty to George Osborne in the last year.

"The South West is an area where we would love to do more. We want the Government to listen to the region, and as far as we are concerned the fight continues."

Meanwhile research from a firm which has 800 four and five star holiday homes in the South West suggested the Chancellor's plans to increase the APD levy from next April could be beneficial to owners across Devon and Cornwall.

According to Blue Chip Holidays' research of more than 800 customers conducted in the past week, the likely outcome of an APD increase is a further fall in air travel and an increase in holidays in the UK.

Of those questioned 38%said that they had chosen UK self-catering holidays over overseas trips to save money.

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