The UK’s Expensive Airport Taxes Are Increasing Even Further

The UK levies the highest taxes for commercial air travel of any country in the world, known as the Air Passenger Duty (APD). This fee is charged if you have travel originating in the UK. This means that if you’re simply transiting the UK on one ticket (like flying from New York to London to Brussels) you don’t pay it, while if you’re flying from New York to London roundtrip, you’d pay it for the London to New York sector.

The APD you pay is dependent on the class of service you’re traveling in, and also the length of your flight. As if the APD wasn’t already high enough for premium cabin travelers, it’s getting even higher soon.

Currently the APD is as follows (shorthaul is defined as 2,000 miles or less, and “premium cabin” includes premium economy, business, and first class):

  • Shorthaul economy: 13GBP
  • Shorthaul business: 26GBP
  • Longhaul economy: 75GBP
  • Longhaul premium cabin: 150GBP

However, soon we’ll see a further rate hike. Starting April 1, 2018, the UK APD will be as follows:

  • Shorthaul economy: 13GBP
  • Shorthaul business: 26GBP
  • Longhaul economy: 78GBP
  • Longhaul premium cabin: 156GBP

As you can see, as of April 1, 2019, the longhaul economy APD will be increasing by 3GBP, and the longhaul premium cabin APD will be increasing by 6GBP.

However, there’s an even bigger increase in the premium cabin APD the following year. Starting April 1, 2019, the UK APD will be as follows:

  • Shorthaul economy: 13GBP
  • Shorthaul business: 26GBP
  • Longhaul economy: 78GBP
  • Longhaul premium cabin: 172GBP

As you can see, as of April 1, 2019, the APD is increasing for longhaul premium cabin tickets by a further 16GBP. With today’s conversion, that tax alone will cost you ~230USD for a longhaul business class ticket. Ouch.

On the plus side, as part of this new budget there will be a five year freeze on the APD for shorthaul travel as of 2019, in both economy and business class.

(Tip of the hat to Head for Points)

Comments

  1. Don’t the citizens of UK have any say in it? Yes, mostly foreigners pay it, but seems like there’s no limit to taxation without representation.

  2. The taxes are easy to add when there is high demand. LHR & other airports are so highly congested that raising taxes will hardly be noticed.

  3. Of course he citizens of the UK have a say, it’s their representatives in parliament who set the taxes. The government is betting that this is, if not popular then politically pain free. Note that taking the kids to Spain has not gone up.

    None of this really matters though it’s just fiddling whilst the self-immolation of brexit destroys both the economy and the tax base.

  4. This is why a fair number of Brits take a short haul flight to a good Europe hub like Schipol or Frankfurt and do the long haul from there. Book it right and APD is paid only on the short bit.

  5. That is why all my longhaul flights are ex DUB, OSL etc. Quick shorthaul with Avios and problem solved.

    Btw. The first 2019 should be 2018.

  6. I question whether APD has any impact on number of flights out of UK. Rather than adding to price of a ticket looks like airlines are just absorbing the cost of doing business. Comparing long haul from EU cities London prices are in the range.

  7. Poor England, economy suffering due to Brexit #epicfail and needs to find revenue from all sorts of places or else the Exchequer will bleed more red.

  8. @Johnny Before you’re so quick to criticize, the *first* increase is 6 GBP, the *second* increase is 16 GBP

    Do the reading! 🙂

  9. And for this princely increase, all your money earns you is time in some of the world’s most miserable airport terminals. Windowless sheds filled with shopping, an intentional lack of seating, endless corridors, unfriendly staff, never enough jetbridges, and braying chavs in tracksuits swilling beer at 7am.

    British-American author Bill Bryson once called the UK “the nation-state equivalent of KMart.” Nowhere is the comparison more apt than the country’s airports. Wherever the APD money is going, its not going to improve the passenger experience.

  10. The ADP is only part of it. 150 GBP is around $200 US at current conversion rates, but the full taxes for AA flights LHR-LAX is $228.

    But God help you if you book a “free” FC award on BA with miles. Including today’s ADP, and the BA “fuel surcharge” (sic) that will cost you over $500 in taxes and surcharges pp one way ! 🙁

  11. @ Lucky

    “As if the APD wasn’t already high enough for premium cabin travelers”

    Nonsense. The differential between economy and premium cabins is too small. If anything, I would have raised it more.

    But if you think it’s too high, do tell us what other taxes should have been raised instead. The money has to come from somewhere, so let’s hear your brilliant political ideas about where better to raise that revenue.

  12. David,

    Yeah, I’ve done the trick of a short-haul flight to Dublin or Zurich, and then on to the US or wherever. But some problems with that:

    1) You need to buy two separate tickets, not a through ticket otherwise the tax applies anyway as it is still a long haul flight out of LHR. If your first leg is delayed you could be stuck.

    2) It’s several extra hours total travel time

    3) You have to pay for the extra leg and often London has good long haul prices

    So on a case-by-case basis you might be able to save a couple of hundred of bucks in tax. But given the risk, the cost and hassle of two flights rather than one, and the extra time, many might decide to just pay it anyway

  13. PENN
    Ur right !! I got a buddy there I fly to CDG instead cheaper nicer UK is a rip off . The Trains are way to high Brits don’t use them they use BUSes . France I travel on everything the FOOLs in the UK with taxes !!!

    CHEERs

  14. This is HUGE because of American’s ceaseless attempts to route all Aadvantage reward tickets to anywhere in Europe ON BA THRU LONDON.
    It’s the greatest scam for AA ever, and it’s been going on for years; you get the treasured free business class roundtrip tickets to Europe and WHAM! the taxes are over 1K per person!
    Since I am a lifetime Gold Aadvantage member, it may be possible that higher elites actually get to take AA flights from America to Paris, Madrid etc., but we paeans will be flying through London.

  15. If the government wished to really soak the premium flyer then for UK companies they could restrict the amount of an airfare allowable against profits to the equivalent economy fare. Then, to screw the UK personal tax payer the dis-allowable element could be deemed a taxable benefit in kind. Yes APD is a pain, but it could be a lot worse. Personally I find BA’s surcharges far more egregious and a much more significant “tax” as it applies to reward flights that I have already paid for from revenue ones. As for what else to tax instead (as opposed to reduce public spending accordingly) the Scottish government is seeking powers to abolish APD for Scottish originating flights.

  16. So many cheap bean counters in the comments section! Are you guys so cheap that your wallets can’t absorb a modest 5 pounds increase!!? Brexit has nothing to do with it.

  17. once im finish staying for my studies in uk, im leaving this hellhole and i would leave without regrets, everything is so expensive….

  18. If only they spent some of the money on improvements. How about manning a few more immigration desks? And opening all the X-ray machines in T5 during rush hour? And employing a few extra bodies, so men don’t have to line up at the scanner if the male employee is busy patting down the previous pax. (Ditto with females.). And some seats in the departure area instead of wall to wall shops.

    Rant over. For now.

  19. Final post:

    Long haul biz-class trips from my home in France to most places are usually cheaper on BA through LHR, even including APD & taxes I do get some satisfaction knowing that BA has to surrender a substantial chunk of revenue to HMRC in order to compete with AF, KLM, LH.

  20. ditto James S:
    And for this princely increase, all your money earns you is time in some of the world’s most miserable airport terminals. Windowless sheds filled with shopping, an intentional lack of seating, endless corridors, unfriendly staff, never enough jetbridges, and braying chavs in tracksuits swilling beer at 7am.

    ditto Robert Hanson:
    But God help you if you book a “free” FC award on BA with miles. Including today’s ADP, and the BA “fuel surcharge” (sic) that will cost you over $500 in taxes and surcharges pp one way !

    ditto Evan M Torch:
    It’s the greatest scam for AA ever, and it’s been going on for years; you get the treasured free business class roundtrip tickets to Europe and WHAM! the taxes are over 1K per person!

  21. This summer I flew LAX-LHR-LAX. I had AA points, but found an economy fare for $638. That was a lot cheaper than using my points due to the high taxes. Was able to upgrade to biz class one way for $500 last minute. It was still a great deal. Not sure what to do with my AA points.

  22. @ CaveDweller
    “I fly to CDG instead cheaper nicer UK is a rip off . The Trains are way to high Brits don’t use them they use BUSes . France I travel on everything the FOOLs in the UK with taxes !!!”

    a) CDG is one of the few airports that is worse than LHR.

    b) UK railways are carrying more passengers than at any time since the 1950s. Which is why stupendous sums of public cash are being shoved their way (avgeeks will see a whole new railway line from LHR through the centre of London, opening in stages over the next few months).

    c) France has far, far higher taxes than the UK.

    Other than that, your post seemed bang in the nail.

    @ notbad41
    Quite right. Irony is not dead. Though if you want to see really nasty commenters, head over to Lucky’s post on sitting next to a “celebrity”.

    @ Gordon
    “As for what else to tax instead (as opposed to reduce public spending accordingly) the Scottish government is seeking powers to abolish APD for Scottish originating flights.”

    The world of Scottish public finances is a mysterious one (and it’s heavily subsidised by England). I notice you avoided the question, though: either tell us what else should be taxed so flyers can have reduced APD or, if you’d like, what public services should be cut. You can’t just wail about how an individual tax should be cut without stating which other groups should suffer so you can pay less (the suffering can of course be either through higher taxes or service cuts). We could certainly go down the US route, of private wealth and public squalor. Or the Western European route of higher taxes and higher public spending. These are political choices.

  23. Hate to point out the obvious, but most people don’t fly business, so will not really care about the increase.

    Given the choice between a few minor taxes here and there, and paying $1000 per month for healthcare, I know which I will be choosing.

  24. APD was a ‘greenwash’ tax introduced allegedly to reduce CO2, like the earlier ill thought out diesel car tax rates and mandatory condenser boilers.

    This is a country that taxes people to watch the British Bullshit Corporation aka Bigoted, Biased Corporation, even when they have cable or satellite and don’t.

    The politicians with their state funded first class travel, use of Queens Flight, inflated salaries and gold plated pensions and expense accounts are hypocrites, excessively taxing ordinary worker bees’ annual holidays.

    Torres nearly lost the last election, hence Economy APD (and road fuel duty and most booze tax) was not increased. The proles can turn easily.

  25. Incomprehensible that premium economy pays the same rates as business and first. Despite the name, there’s very little “premium” about it, especially on BA.

  26. @ Richard G
    Completely agree. In fact, I’d suggest Business class could easily pay double the proposed rates, and First class 4x.

    By definition, First is a luxury product, not one of life’s necessities, and the higher tax would be justified by the greater space and weight involved in transporting First passengers compared to Economy.

  27. The difference between UK APD for ‘Economy’ and ‘Premium’ air-travel, especially Long-haul air-travel, seems unfair and unjustified. As a UK taxpayer, I will be raising this matter with Jacob Reece-Mogg, who is my MP and, according to speculation in the UK press, may soon be in a position to do something about it!

  28. @ A consumer

    My tip: when you raise it with your MP, do try to spell his name correctly. Though I’m happy to place a large bet with you that that evil buffoon will never be Prime Minister.

    He’s against women’s rights, virulently homophobic and, apparently, pro-smoking. As well as being a rabid Brexiteer at the swivel-eyed fringes of even that motley group.

    Have a look at his voting record at “They work for you”. It is not at all what you might expect from a halfway decent human being.

  29. And a quick addendum on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s attitude to APD:

    “Almost always voted for higher taxes on plane tickets:
    9 votes for, 0 votes against, 1 absence, between 2013–2017”
    Source: they work for you

    Looks like you might not have much luck there.

  30. When I hop the pond I use the 10K miles-plus $140 fare on Virgin Atlantic from IAD to LHR. Then I go onto Europe with a BA 4500 mile award. I never return from the UK.

  31. @ The nice Paul:

    I thank you for the gentleness of your correction of my mis-spelling of JR-M’s name. Happily, I probably would not have embarrassed myself in writing. I was intending to raise the matter of APD with him when I next bump into him; he is often to be seen about the North East Somerset constituency.

    I’m not sure I agree with your less kind remark about JR-M being a buffoon. He has always come across to me as being an intelligent person, who is open to argument. Admittedly, his apparently irrational views about religion seem to cause him to espouse policies, which, from a more rational and common sense perspective, seem strange, but, hey, who’s perfect!

  32. Those who fly (me included) are destroying the planet. Those who fly business are wealthy.

    If anyone should be paying more in tax it’s these people. More countries should do it.

  33. Callum,

    Flying in a premium cabin is less harmful to the environment than flying in Economy, because it means the plane is carrying fewer people and burning less fuel

  34. Callum are you for real? The weight of a pax relative to airframe and fuel is so marginal that economy vs even first loading is irrelevant to fuel efficiency. The differential is political not evidence based.

  35. @ Martin @ Gordon

    Wonderfully inventive linguistic engineering.

    Which airline has recently decided not to move its premium cabin to the upper deck of their A380s, because the business and first seats are so vastly heavier than economy seats that the aircraft floors would require substantial strengthening (at huge cost) to cope with the extra load?

    Seems to contradict your views, no?

    Though I’d agree that APD is political. All taxation policy is political. I notice neither of you are telling us which group should be paying more tax, so you and the other avgeeks can pay less.

  36. Paul,

    Obviously a premium seat weighs more than a coach seat. But does it weigh more than 3 coach seats with 3 passengers? That’s the real issue and I would suggest not.

  37. @ Martin

    No, it’s not at all the real issue. Though in fairness to you, it was this line from Gordon taht was the most egregious:

    “The weight of a pax relative to airframe and fuel is so marginal that economy vs even first loading is irrelevant to fuel efficiency”

    The real issue is that 1st class flight is a luxury product. No-one *needs* to fly 1st class. So why shouldn’t it attract a much higher tax rate?

    How about this proposal: Economy class tax is £13. Why not set the premium cabin tax rates to exactly the same multiple that the premium class ticket is to the cheapest Economy class ticket. So say that cheapest ticket was £100 (plus £13 tax, of course), and your business class ticket was £1,000, set the tax for you at 13 x (1,000/100) = £130.

    If the 1st class ticket was £3,000, their tax would be £390.

    That would seem to me to be completely fair: everyone is sharing the pain in direct proportion to the amount they can afford to spend. You don’t want to pay high taxes? Well, travel Economy class. It’s up to you.

    Instead, everyone seems to be bitching that the Business class tax is *only* double the Economy class tax. Whereas I think we’ve got away lightly. Unfairly lightly.

  38. Paul,

    My comment was restricted to disagreeing with the idea that it is environmentally callous to fly in a premium cabin.

    How progressive taxes should be is a political question and I have no view on that. Taxes are a factor in deciding who I will fly with but, usually, I base my decision on the overall price of the fare. BA seems to have high taxes and fees, but if the total I pay is competitive with other airlines then how it breaks down really isn’t a concern for me.

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