Why do most airlines charge considerably more for a return ticket from Melbourne or Sydney to London Heathrow than to Paris, despite the negligible difference in distance and flight times?
A return economy class fare costs at least $200 more to fly from either Australian city to London than it does to Paris, and more than that on a business class ticket. The reason is the higher fees and taxes that air travellers face in the case of the UK.
The Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is the UK Government’s departure tax, is currently £94 ($169) for an economy-class passenger on a long-haul flight, and £188 ($339) for a business-class passenger on the same flight.
In France, air-departure taxes are ten times lower than they are in Britain while in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, the equivalent tax has been axed altogether.
In addition, the landing charges at London Heathrow are relatively high at £20.71 ($37) per passenger.
Airlines have been jumping up and down and the British government has responded. From 1 April 2015, passengers flying to all long-haul destinations will pay the same rate of APD as they do to fly to the USA, which will mean a reduction of £23 ($41) for an economy-class passenger on a long-haul flight.
At the beginning of this year Britain’s airport regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, bowed to pressure from airlines to cut charges at Heathrow.
To be phased in over five years starting from April 2014, the change will eventually mean a reduction of £1.61 ($3) per passenger. Small beer perhaps, but a sign at last that the British Government acknowledges that bleeding the airline passenger to death is not a fruitful strategy.