Autumn Budget fails to address key air travel challenges, say industry chiefs

Rishi Sunak with his 'red box' on Downing Street, London; Insets: An easyJet plane and a Ryanair plane

Aviation leaders have warned that the Budget will not address the challenges which the industry will face in 2022 - Credit: PA/Archant

The chancellor's Autumn Budget is a "missed opportunity" to improve long-distance travel in the UK, aviation sector leaders have warned.

Both Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) and Ryanair have told this newspaper that Rishi Sunak's Autumn Budget fails to address key challenges which airlines will face in 2022.

Mr Sunak told the Commons on Wednesday that he would slash Air Passenger Duty (APD) for domestic flights by 50 per cent to "bolster UK air connectivity".

But Brian Ross of SAW, incorporating Stop Stansted Expansion, criticised the APD reform as "nonsensical".

He said: "To travel to Australia, China or New Zealand, you probably need to catch a flight.

"Travelling domestically, it's better to incentivise and invest in sustainable travel such as rail.

"Slashing domestic APD just before the UN's Climate Change Conference sends out the wrong message."

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HM Treasury hopes that nine million passengers will save money on domestic flights in 2023-24.

Mr Sunak's Budget also sets out a new ultra-long-haul duty which will cover "destinations with capitals located more than 5,500 miles from London to align APD more closely with the government's environmental objectives".

Ryanair warned that the plans could stifle the sector's recovery.

A spokesperson said: "While this is a step in the right direction, it is simply not enough.

"The government has missed an opportunity to kickstart tourism recovery, particularly for summer 2022, by delaying the APD reduction until 2023.

"This cut applies only to domestic travel, ignoring the need to restore international connectivity which is fundamental for the growth of the UK economy and tourism."

People stand far apart, social distancing for Covid-19. All of them have bags, about to board a plane

Social distancing in Stansted Airport. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Ryanair called on the government to abolish all APD to boost recovery this winter.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO, said the APD reform is "welcome" and promised to pass the company's savings on to customers.

He said: "easyJet continues to offset all its emissions from the fuel used.

"We urge the government to use the funds raised by APD to support investment into the development of zero-emission technologies."

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Sunak defended the APD reforms.

"Those who fly the furthest will pay the highest rates of APD," he said.

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