St. John’s Antigua- The controversial Airline Passenger Duty (APD) tax on airline tickets in the UK is about to undergo another review. A consultation process initiated by the UK Treasury is expected to be published next month, and the Caribbean Council expects the tax to also feature when Chancellor of the Exchequer (Britain’s finance minister) George Osborne presents his autumn statement to the UK parliament on November 29.
If Caribbean Council Director David Jessop had his way, the UK would abandon altogether the APD that Jessop and other lobbyists insist is hurting Caribbean destinations.
“The tax has been particularly damaging to those Caribbean nations that are heavily dependent on UK tourism such as Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua,” Jessop said in his latest comment on the APD.
“It has also caused real problems for the Caribbean Diaspora in the UK at a time of increased austerity and has resulted in airlines cutting scheduled services to destinations such as Jamaica where APD has affected negatively the viability of operating flights carrying a particular mix of traffic,” he said.
Jessop recalls that in March of this year Britain’s Conservative Government, in response to lobbying from the Caribbean, its community in the UK and a wide range of international and industry interests, launched a consultation process aimed at reviewing the structure of APD.
It called for views on one of two options aimed at simplifying the existing regime.
The one favoured by Antigua & Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean would see the APD reverting to a two-band system that would divide short haul and long haul travel within a delineated boundary.
Lobbyists including Jessop and Caribbean states say it is a proposal through which a relatively modest increase could be imposed on short haul tickets to European countries.
They argue that would serve British interest because it would result in a greater tax taken from shorter journeys.
This could then benefit the region because it would help offset the tax on all long haul flights including those to Caribbean destinations.
Jessop says Caribbean government should not ease up but rather increase their pressure on the UK government to reform, if not abandon altogether, the APD.
“It is not just Caribbean governments that need to keep up the pressure. The Diaspora message continues to be a vital element in the Caribbean’s APD campaign. British politicians, like their counterparts elsewhere, remain particularly sensitive and responsive to the interests of voters especially where theirs or that of their political colleagues involves retaining a marginal constituency,” Jessop concluded.