Our turn to whinge on Australia-London fares

JUST like the swine flu, it seems whinging is a contagion for Australian politicians who travel to the UK.

In London, Trade Minister Simon Crean has urged Britain to scrap its latest "green tax" rise on airfares, arguing it discriminates against people travelling to Australia.

But if anyone is being discriminated against on the Kangaroo route, it's Australian travellers, who at times pay almost double what it costs Britons to fly between the two countries.

The British Government began increasing its air-passenger duty in November 2009, saying the higher taxes would help compensate for the effect of air travel on the environment.

The higher taxes hit long-haul flights the hardest.

Economy passengers travelling to Australia now have to pay an extra £55 ($A98) on their ticket. Those taxes are due to rise to $A152 in November this year.

But travelling Britons are still significantly better off than their Australian counterparts.

For example, this week travellers flying economy from Heathrow (London) to Melbourne return on Qantas could find fares as low as $1183, including taxes.

Flying the opposite direction (Qantas, Melbourne-Heathrow return) would cost Australians at least $1965 — which includes a whopping $404.81 in add-on taxes, fees, charges and levies.

Qantas' spokeswoman yesterday said the difference between UK and Australian pricing on the route was a result of factors including seasonality, exchange rates and passenger demand.

Britons were still recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis and special discounts were needed to stimulate UK demand to travel to Australia, the spokeswoman said.

Mr Crean urged Business Secretary Peter Mandelson to reconsider the tax increases, which have caused outrage throughout the global travel industry, during talks in London on Monday.

"We've indicated to the Government that whilst this was originally said to be a duty for environmental purposes it's now accepted that it's just for revenue raising purposes," Mr Crean said.

"We've said we understand government's need to raise revenue but they shouldn't do it in the discriminatory way that this tax applies.

"It hurts us particularly because people flying to Australia from here [Britain] pay by far the biggest premium."

Mr Crean said Lord Mandelson and his Conservative counterpart Kenneth Clarke, who also held talks with the Australian trade minister, had agreed to raise the matter with the British Treasury.

With AAP

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