The UK has a hefty air passenger duty (APD), especially for those flying in first or business class. That’s why you might notice that when you book an award ticket with a flight originating in London, the taxes and fees are about $200 higher than they would usually be. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, check out my post about the air passenger duty and how to minimize it.
Anyway, while this has always been charged on award tickets, many airlines don’t charge the APD when upgrading (though I assume they’re still having to pay the tax in one way or another, so they might be taking a loss on that). American is one of the airlines that passes on the APD to those upgrading to business class out of the UK (London and Manchester) the Air Passenger Duty, while up until now United hasn’t.
Well, according to this integration newsletter it appears that United is now charging those that upgrade the air passenger duty:
Airport Taxes on Upgrades – U.K.
United is advising customers who request an upgrade on flights from the U.K. that it will collect the required British Airport Authority (BAA) tax based on cabin of service. Per the rules of the BAA, premium cabin customers are subject to a greater tax than those in economy class. United is mandated to collect the difference in taxes when upgrading a customer.
The APD is presently £130 (that’s $204USD with today’s exchange rate), so it really adds to the cost of upgrading.
While I suggest reading up on my previous post about the APD, keep in mind that you only pay it if your travel originates in the UK (be it the outbound or return journey). If you’re just connecting in the UK (for example, flying from Frankfurt to London to Washington without spending more than 24 hours in London), the APD doesn’t apply.
Has anyone been asked to pay it yet? If so, were you charged at the time the upgrade was confirmed?