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Flight tax cut sparks surge in new UK domestic flights

Flight tax cut sparks surge in new UK domestic flights

Crisis, what aviation crisis? For the airline industry, the last weekend in March marks the start of the summer season: traditionally the time when new routes are launched. Three years ago the vast majority of flights had been grounded at the start of the Covid pandemic, with airports silent and fears of widespread bankruptcies among carriers.

Yet with the surge of post-lockdown demand unabated, this year will see more than 100 new and restored air routes from and within the UK – including a wide range of new domestic air routes on Ryanair.

The budget airline is expanding its network linking England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland because of at the impending cut in the tax on domestic flights.

On Saturday 1 April, Air Passenger Duty on flights within the UK will be halved. But the additional flights and incentive to move from rail to air has caused dismay among transport campaigners and environmentalists who believe there is too much flying already.

What’s happening?

Millions of airline passengers are set to benefit from a cut in the tax on flying for trips within the UK. From the start of April, Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights will fall from £13 to £6.50.

The decision was announced by Rishi Sunak while he was chancellor. Ministers say the aim is “to further bolster links within the UK” and that a corresponding increase in tax for very long flights “aligns Air Passenger Duty more closely with the government’s environmental objectives”.

Overall, passengers will collectively benefit to the tune of £58m in tax each year that the government is giving up.

But transport and environment campaigners are outraged, saying it will encourage a switch from rail to air – just when the move should be in the opposite direction.

What’s the likely effect of the cut in tax?

When air fares fall, more people fly. Some will make extra journeys while others will switch to air from terrestrial transport, whether that is rail, road or sea. The main beneficiaries will be passengers flying between Edinburgh and London, the key intercity link in the UK.

British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair are expecting an increase in demand as passengers move from the train to the plane.

More broadly, travellers from Scotland and Northern Ireland heading for England and Wales, or vice versa, will see lower fares and more choice.

People who won’t…

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