Virgin slams UK's new departure tax

Virgin Atlantic has blasted the rise in Britain's airport departure tax being introduced on Monday, warning that many families would be priced out of a holiday.

Virgin Atlantic said today that the rises in the Air Passenger Duty would make holidays "unaffordable for many", while other airlines are also fuming and tourist destinations fear a plunge in business.

The tax, imposed at the point of purchase, is going up by 55 per cent for the longest flights.

The tax is based on the distance travelled, meaning passengers travelling on flights between Britain and Australia will be the hardest hit.

"Holidays are an essential part of our lives and are valued even more in these difficult economic times," Julie Southern, Virgin Atlantic's chief commercial officer, said.

"With passengers now being asked to pay up to 10 times more tax since the duty's introduction, the annual family holiday will become unaffordable for many.

"This absolutely has to be the last time that the travelling public faces APD rises."

British Airways is also furious. Chief executive Willie Walsh has called the tax "a disgrace".

The duty has four levels: Band A for flights up to 3200 kilometres; Band B for up to 6450 kilometres; Band C for up to 9650 kilometres; and Band D for flights beyond that.

In economy class, Band A passengers face a 9 per cent rise from £11 to £12; Band B a 33 per cent rise from £45 to £60.

Band C passengers face a 50 per cent rise from £50 to £75, while Band D customers (including those flying from Britain to Australia) face a 55 per cent rise from £55 to £85.

Premium class passengers pay double those amounts, meaning the duty on first-class flights to Australia will be £170.

Qantas said the increased tax had already been factored into its fares for travel from Britain after November 1. Singapore Airlines said it had also factored in the increase tax to its fares.

"For the travelling public, an increase in the cost of travel such as this may mean that they will make a choice to travel to an alternate destination or airport, should the choice be available, or defer travel altogether," Singapore Airlines said in a statement.

Gareth Williams, chief executive of flight comparison site, suggested the rises could lead long-haul travellers to fly from airports elsewhere in Europe.

"In a recent survey we found that more than three-quarters of our users would be willing to fly indirectly to save money," he said.

"It could have serious repercussions for the long-haul UK aviation industry."

The government is considering replacing the duty with a per-plane tax.