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Belfast's airports seek removal of short-haul APD

Belfast's airports are to submit evidence to a consultation on the future of air passenger duty (APD) for short-haul flights in Northern Ireland in a bid to have the tax abolished.

Speaking to FlightGlobal at the Routes Europe event in Bilbao, Katy Best, commercial director of Belfast City airport, says she is hopeful the region can "lead the way" to the removal of APD across the UK.

"It's a piece that the Northern Ireland airports are working collectively on," Best states, adding: "That consultation period closes in June and collectively there will be a number of parties across the industry that will be making submissions.

"The fact that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border to a country that doesn’t have APD does make a case for us to perhaps lead the way in terms of removal of APD."

A consultation on the removal of the £13 ($18) APD charge is happening as part of the "confidence and supply" agreement reached by the Democratic Unionist Party with the ruling Conservative party in the UK parliament.

Northern Ireland removed APD from long-haul flights in January 2013.

Speaking at the same event, Belfast International airport managing director Graham Keddie describes the abolition of the tax as a "no brainer" for the UK government to allow the gateway to compete more effectively with the likes of Dublin airport.

Keddie says research carried out by the airport suggests the removal of APD would "very quickly" add 1.5 million seats, adding that he has commitments from two airlines to "ratchet up the seat count" in Northern Ireland if the tax is removed.

Keddie notes 75% of Northern Ireland's air traffic is domestic and is therefore taxed "twice" under APD rules.

Best states removal would "have an impact on the consumer, in terms of price point. It should have an impact in terms of profitability for the airlines. So there is an argument that there is a demand stimulus through that removal.

"But also it puts us on a greater footing in terms of engaging with airlines from a new business perspective. And that can become part of the narrative in terms of why someone should start a new route to Northern Ireland."

Airlines including Ryanair have also called for the removal of APD on short-haul flights from Northern Ireland, saying the charge restricts growth opportunities.

Additional reporting by Oliver Clark

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