US airlines lash out against new UK passenger charges

Washington DC
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US carriers represented by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) today voiced "stiff" opposition to the new scheme introduced by the UK to calculate passenger duty taxes based on distances flown from London to the capital of a destination country.

The new taxes begin on 1 November 2009. For lower classes of travel from 2009-2010 the charges range from be £11 to £55. Charges double for higher-class travel, with the higher rate applying to aircraft with more than 40in seat-pitch operating in a single-class configuration. Charges for 2010-2011 are set to rise in both categories.

ATA CEO James May contends the action is illegal, and the association expects the issue "to be settled in the courts".

US carriers believe the revised duty violates provisions under the Chicago Convention including improperly exerting regulatory jurisdiction over flights far outside the UK airspace through the distance bands of 2,000mi, 4,000mi, 6,000mi and over 6,000mi.

"A lesser tax is imposed on those flights within the UK and the European Union, even though a flight from the United States is not in UK airspace for any longer (and often less) than such flights," argues ATA.

Furthermore, the association believes the charges are a revenue driver for the UK government "under the guise of environmental protection. The funds collected do not go to environmental projects, and yet the taxes take money from airlines they could otherwise invest in more fuel-efficient and greenhouse gas-efficient technologies".