New long-haul budget airline brand Level will not fly from UK regional airports with Air Passenger Duty at current rates, its boss has warned.
In a letter to MPs, Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group chief executive, claims that abolishing APD “would make it more likely” that Level could operate from Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester.
IAG is looking to expand Level, which launched flights from Barcelona to the US and Latin America last year and will fly from Paris to the Caribbean and North America from July. The UK has been mooted as one location, but Walsh claimed:
“However, it’s not financially viable when Level’s fares start around £88 one way and long-haul economy APD is £78,” Walsh said. In addition to £78 added to economy fares, passengers pay £156 APD in premium economy and business class. The latter rate will rise another 10% to £172 next year.
IAG says APD “undermines Britain’s position as a global trading nation post-Brexit”. Walsh added: “British consumers are losing out because of APD. In Spain and France, Level can offer lower fares than it can in the UK – and that goes for other long-haul low cost airlines too.”
Walsh added: “By hiking APD in the last Budget, it’s clear the chancellor doesn’t understand that Britain is losing out to countries that don’t have draconian aviation taxes.
“MPs need to know that APD undermines our ability to introduce new low cost flights that would benefit their constituents. If APD was axed, IAG could open new routes and operate Level from regional airports,” he said.
Level is due to add a third aircraft to its fleet later in the summer and will take over IAG’s French carrier OpenSkies at Paris’s Orly airport in July. Walsh has said he wants a Level fleet of 30 by 2022.
So far, IAG’s attempt to capture the long-haul market from the UK regions has been spearheaded through its Aer Lingus brand via connecting flights to the US from Dublin and Shannon.