14 DECEMBER 2009


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Article from BTNews 14 DECEMBER 2009

COMMENT: Daylight robbery

No doubt you have heard the expression, but did you know that it probably dates back to 1696.  It was an anti-taxation expression, and does have connotations today.

“Daylight robbery” refers to duty introduced in the reign of King William III by which houses with more than ten windows were penalised by an additional tariff.  It was assumed that this only affected rich people who could afford such glorious establishments.  The argument against was that residents were being robbed of daylight and that the tax, for that was what it was, had nothing to do with the building of houses but just another money grabbing scheme by the then government.  In various guises it remained until 1851.  In France the Doors And Windows Tax remained until 1926.

This Government imposed Air Passenger Duty (APD) at £5 for short haul services and £20 for long haul flights in November 2004 under an environmental pretext, a sort of 21st century version of the window charge.  In fact it was nothing more than a simple tax, finally admitted by the current Chancellor, the Transport Minister at the time.

Yes we are all thoroughly bored regarding APD but somehow we have to make this Government, and whoever will be in power later next year, come to its senses regarding yet another massive increase due in less than 12 months’ time. 

For most short haul flights the cost will be £12 in Economy but for really long distance trips, say Australia, the charge will be £85 Economy and £170 in Premium Economy.  Don’t ask for an upgrade!  It will scare off travellers connecting through Heathrow and (by being airside) not even stepping a foot in the United Kingdom.

And forget any ideas that if you travel on British Airways out of London City Airport to New York you will be taxed at the lower rate.  A single class aircraft with a seat pitch of more than 40" is charged at the higher duty rate.

An executive jet passenger pays no tax at all.

Let us consider what happens if you miss your flight for some reason.  The airline does not pay the tax.  Many refuse to reimburse the passenger on the grounds of handling costs (in this internet age).  It should be statutory that APD is returned to whoever paid for the ticket.

One thing for sure, 21st century jet aircraft are far quieter than their predecessors.  The industry has voluntarily made enormous efforts in noise and pollution reduction over the last 60 years since the first Comet passenger jet flew.  And the reward.  More tax.

You may ask the question “what aircraft is the worst offender in terms of din and smoke?”

Steve Ridgway of Virgin Atlantic answered that one at last week’s Airport Operators Association conference.  It is the Royal Air Force VC10 fleet based at RAF Brize Norton.  Steve lives near Oxford, perhaps 25 miles away, very much within earshot of the elderly transports.  They are the flying proof of how aviation has moved on.  The government should be taxing the Air Marshals not civilian travellers.

There is nothing more to add.  APD is daylight robbery.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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