UK government under attack for threatening C’bean holidays

LONDON, CMC — Airlines, travel agents and passenger groups here continue to put pressure on the United Kingdom Government over a tax increase that goes into effect tomorrow for holidays to the Caribbean.

The Air Passenger Duty (APD) will increase by up to 50 per cent for some destinations, making family holidays “unaffordable for many”, according to Sir Richard Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic.

British Airways has also attacked the increases, saying they threaten the UK’s economic recovery and put thousands of jobs at risk.

ADP, which is automatically added to the price of an air ticket when it is booked, was introduced last November and is charged at four different rates.

From tomorrow, Band A, which covers destinations in Europe, will rise nine per cent to £12 for economy and £24 for premium flights.

Band B, which includes Egypt and the US, will increase by 33 per cent to £60 economy and £120 premium.

Destinations including the Caribbean and South Africa, which are in Band C, are to go up by 50 per cent to £75 and £150 respectively.

“With passengers now being asked to pay up to 10 times more tax since APD’s introduction, the annual family holiday will become unaffordable for many,” Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer, Julie Southern, told reporters here.

“Aviation supports more than 500,000 jobs in the UK and provides the transport links that are vital to the success of UK businesses in a globalised economy. Excessive taxation puts aviation’s social and economic benefits at risk,” added a BA spokesman.

“When we are looking for new opportunities, this tax is holding the UK’s regional airports back,” said a spokesman for Ryanair.

Travel agent Thomas Cook said it was disappointed that the rise was going ahead.

“We have and will continue to strenuously voice our disappointment to the government that it has continued with plans to increase APD,” said Manny Fontenla-Novoa, its group chief executive.

Caribbean tourism ministers have protested to the UK government over the ADP increase.

A delegation of ministers and officials from several Caribbean countries was in London recently to lobby the Government and MPs for a change of heart, warning that the APD rises could harm their economies that are more than ever reliant on tourism.

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