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All you need to know about Air Passenger Duty

From 1st April 2018, taxes on air travel in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands) will be changing. Whilst Air Passenger Duty (APD) for short-haul flights remains the same, the APD for long-haul flights is creeping up from £75 to £78 for economy class and from £150 to £156 for other classes. These new costs will be incorporated into the plane ticket so travellers will see a slight increase in the ticket price. So how can you avoid paying APD on international flights? Will these changes affect the cost of your family holiday? And what exactly is APD anyway?

What is Air Passenger Duty?

APD was introduced in 1994 as a tax to pay for the environmental costs of air travel. The idea is that the tax makes passengers think twice before flying.

There are two travel bands, one for short-haul flights and one for long-haul flights.

There’s also three rates of duty for both bands, which depends on the class of travel. The different rates are based on whether the passengers have different standards of comfort, service, privacy or amenities.

The rates are:
Reduced rate
For travel in the lowest class of travel available on the plane for seat pitches less than 1.016 metres (40 inches).
Standard rate
For travel in any other class of travel or where the seat pitch is more than 1.016 metres (40 inches).
Higher rate
For travel in planes of 20 tonnes or more equipped to carry fewer than 19 passengers.

Who pays APD?

APD is levied against each adult passenger on every flight departing from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands) – it doesn’t apply if you’re flying back into the UK. You also don’t pay APD if you’re just changing flights in the UK en route to somewhere else – as long as the time between flights is less than 24 hours. Children aged two years old without a seat booking are exempt from APD regardless of the class they are travelling in. Children under 16 years old (when travelling) are exempt from APD on economy class travel only. There are other exemptions, including departing from Northern Ireland or the Scottish Highlands for direct flights. You can find out more about exemptions here

Family boarding an airplane

How much is it?

Back in 1994, it started out as £5 for short-haul flights and £10 for long-haul flights. But since then it’s been raised repeatedly by successive governments,– and it all changes again on April 1st 2018. The good news is that short-haul flights won’t be affected – APD will stay the same at £13 for economy class, which is known as reduced rate and £26 for the all other cabin classes (standard rate). But if you’re flying further than 2,000 miles known as long-haul, the rates have been bumped up from £75 to £78 for economy class and from £150 to £156 for other classes of travel. If you’re travelling in a plane of 20 tonnes plus that’s equipped to carry 19 or fewer passengers – basically a business jet – then the rate stays the same for short-haul at £78, but it goes up from £450 to £468 for long-haul flights. But most of us won’t have to worry about that last one…

Will that make long-haul holidays more expensive?

If you’re flying further than 2,000 miles then yes it will increase slightly, but for a family of four travelling long haul in economy class this increase will be £6. Just bear in mind that the exemptions for children only apply to economy seats.


How can I avoid paying it?

Well, there are a few loopholes. If you’re flying from Northern Ireland, you won’t have to pay a penny in APD for long-haul flights. But this only applies to direct flights – and short-haul flights are still subject to APD of £13 for economy and £26 for other classes. Similarly, all airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands are exempt – the biggest of which is Inverness. So if, for example, you wanted to get to Florida without paying any APD, you could potentially fly from Inverness to somewhere like Amsterdam, then get a connecting flight. Whether this would work out any cheaper than flying direct from, say, London is debatable though.

Will APD ever go down?

If you live in Scotland, then there’s a chance it might. As part of the devolution process, from 2018 the Scottish Parliament will be able to control the rate of APD for Scottish airports.

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