New chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged to halve Air Passenger Duty (APD) in his first Budget next month.
A group of 44 MPs and peers have written to Sunak demanding he dramatically cut the tax on outbound flights.
The letter said the tax makes “no economic or political sense”; acts as a barrier to economic growth; and makes a number of routes financially unviable.
“We are competing in a global market for businesses and investors, and we are held back by our current levels of APD,” said the group.
Sunak replaced Sajid Javid earlier this month and will deliver his first Budget speech on 11 March.
APD is currently charged at £13 on short-haul economy seats and £80 long-haul, rising to £26 on short-haul business or upper seats and £176 long-haul.
The call has been welcomed by Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, which also wrote to Sunak calling on him to consider addressing “the damaging impact” of APD.
Airlines UK’s letter was co-signed by chief executive Tim Alderslade, and the bosses of a handful of the UK’s largest carriers including Steve Heapy (Jet2.com), Shai Weiss (Virgin Atlantic) and Willie Walsh (BA parent IAG).
“We welcome recognition of the need to address the impact of APD on domestic aviation and this should be dealt with now we’ve left the EU,” said Alderslade.
“However, APD impacts all UK airlines flying all routes and to all destinations, and action is needed to tackle APD in its totality. Last month, UK aviation committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“We can grow and decarbonise, and now is the time for government to make global Britain a reality by tackling the sky-high APD levels that continue to hold airlines back.”
APD has been widely criticised over the years after it was introduced in the early 1990s ostensibly as a “green” or environmental tax. However, it has since been disclosed the proceeds from APD go straight to the Treasury to be redistributed to other government departments.
Activist travel firm Responsible Travel has called on government to increase APD and make it a genuine environmental levy, with funds ring-fenced to fund efforts to improve aviation’s green credentials.
Chris Photi of White Hart Associates, meanwhile, recently told TTG he felt some of APD could be used to fund any future repatriation operations in the event of airline failure, such as those that beset Monarch and Thomas Cook.