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'Flight tax' putting regional airports at risk, says MP

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 08, 2013

By Graeme Demianyk, WMN London Editor, Twitter: @graemedemianyk

StephenGilbert

StephenGilbert

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An MP has warned the Government a controversial "flight tax" is putting hard-pressed airports in rural areas at risk.

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said the Air Passenger Duty (APD) was having a "disproportionate effect on regional airports operating lifeline routes with modest passenger numbers".

His comments come amid doubt over the future of Newquay airport amid losing its direct link to the capital, and the closure of Plymouth airport.

APD is charged on all passenger flights from UK airports. Introduced in 1994, it has since January 2007 increased by up to 260% for short-haul flights and up to 360% for long-haul flights. APD costs £13 for a short-haul flight and up to £92 for a long-haul journey.

Mr Gilbert raised the tax during Treasury Questions in the Commons as it was highlighted how routes increased in Barcelona due a reduction in APD.

He said: "Air Passenger Duty can also have a disproportionate effect on regional airports operating lifeline routes with modest passenger numbers, such as Newquay's.

"Will the Minister factor that into the discussions she is having with colleagues on the future of Air Passenger Duty?"

In response, the Treasury Minister promised to look at the evidence and encouraged the Cornwall MP to write to her on the matter. He said afterwards: "Air Passenger Duty simply makes life more difficult for regional airports to compete and is an unnecessary burden.

"Newquay airport is a vital link for Cornwall and I am exploring every possible avenue to ensure that services between the Duchy and the capital continue to run."

The Government last month confirmed the air link between Newquay airport and London is eligible for a state-funded subsidy, with politicians hoping the soon-to-be-axed route can be restored by next summer.

Flights between Cornwall's only airport and the capital are due to end on March 30, raising huge concerns over the economic impact on the far South West.

Flybe said it would be withdrawing from the route in May, saying Gatwick's landing charges were excessive. Earlier this month easyJet, which has bought the landing slots at Gatwick from Flybe and operates seasonal flights to Southend from Newquay, said that there was "insufficient demand" to maintain the London link.

But now the Department for Transport has confirmed to Cornwall Council the route is eligible for a public service obligation (PSO). Imposing a PSO will mean the Government providing a subsidy to an operator to deliver the connection for four years.

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7 comments

  • JeremyBadger  |  November 10 2013, 5:55PM

    The Lib Dems are avid supporters of these "green taxes" so get off your high horse Gilbert!

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  • BobToronto  |  November 09 2013, 4:30PM

    The bottleneck for flights from Cornwall to London and the rest of the UK, say, Belfast or Edinburgh and the rest of the world is the lack of capacity at Heathrow. A businessman in Rio, Toronto, or say, Hong Kong thinking of establishing a plant in the UK will probably not consider Cornwall if it takes an extra day to travel 250 miles from London to Newquay, or for that matter Plymouth. Cornwall needs the extra runways at Heathrow. New turbo fan geared engines from Pratt & Whitney (Canada) are radically reducing noise levels and fuel consumption. There is no rational objection to the new runways. More flights to Heathrow would improve the economics of running Newquay.

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  • TimHamer  |  November 08 2013, 2:28PM

    This is typical government bad behavior, Tax everything they can, And to hell with the paying public, Whether we can afford it or not is completely irrelevant, After all Mr Gillbert and Co can do something that is exclusive to him self and his cronies in parliament, And put it on his expenses form.

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  • Newquay_Loyal  |  November 08 2013, 12:04PM

    Sod flying to somewhere 30 miles south of London, we want to fly to the Sun. In recent years, we have had one summer season of a Malaga flight,then we enjoyed Girona and Alicante with Ryanair who also did the London Stanstead route. It was the increase of APD AND the £5 Newquay Departure Tax that put them all off. Make Airports that are more than 100 miles away from any London, Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow airports, APD FREE, this will encourage airlines to the regions and free up air space ans slots at the so called Hubs.

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  • josdave  |  November 08 2013, 9:13AM

    Why should we the taxpayers, most of whom never fly. subsidise a private concern. Council tax money is for essential services of which Newquay Airport is not one.

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  • nickthompson  |  November 08 2013, 8:53AM

    "Price hike will add £260 to cost of family flights to Florida, and £52 for a trip to Spain"-------------------------- Do we really have to remind Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP that his party is part of this awful government who recently raised airport taxes by 10%.

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  • Pink_Diesel  |  November 08 2013, 7:21AM

    I really don't think anyonr flying to Newquay for a surfing holiday is worried about a £13 tax, nor any businessman.

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