Obscene is a strong and harsh word. It means offensive to moral principles; repugnant. I don’t use the word casually. Yet I do use it to describe the ridiculous APD departure tax from the United Kingdom…that will soon grow even further.
First the news, then my commentary.
The UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) was introduced in 1994 as a deliberate scheme to raise revenue. You can read here (.pdf) for details on the history of the APD. Some say this was introduced for environmental reasons, but the excise tax more than covers the carbon emissions on every flight. The money is pooled into a general tax fund and not even necessarily used for aviation-related infrastructure.
Up until this year, the APD was divided into four bands for longhaul travel. In April 2017, it was “simplified” to two bands.
Presently, the UK APD is divided into two bands–shorthaul and longhaul. Shorthaul is 2,000 miles or less while longhaul is anything over 2,000 miles. The two bands are further divided by class of service: economy or premium cabin. Premium cabin includes premium economy, business, and first class.
These are the current rates:
- Shorthaul economy: 13GBP
- Shorthaul business: 26GBP
- Longhaul economy: 75GBP
- Longhaul premium cabin: 150GBP
As reported by One Mile at a Time, starting on April 1, 2018 the UK APD will rise on longhaul flights above 2,000 miles:
- Longhaul economy: 78GBP (+3GBP)
- Longhaul premium cabin: 156GBP (+6GBP)
On April 1, 2019 the price will rise again for longhaul premium cabin customers:
- Longhaul premium cabin: 172GBP (+22GBP from present levels)
If it is any consolation, we won’t see an increase in shorthaul economy or business class for the next five years.
Why the Latest APD Increase is Obscene
It would be one thing if the APD helped to make London and other UK airports the most efficient and beautiful in the world. But flying through London 3+ times per year I see regression, not progression.
Yes, the cost of security screenings is rising. But why must the screenings be among the most draconian in the world? Does it really make us any safer to keep liquids in transparent resealable bags no more than 20cm x 20cm as opposed to a slightly larger translucent bag?
Why does security screenings take 20 minutes for what takes 5 minutes in Germany or the USA?
And why is it necessary to re-clear security when transiting from, say, Germany or Canada or the Netherlands to Ireland or Spain or Norway? Unlike the ease of connections in Munich or Stockholm or Vienna, nearly every connection requires security re-clearance in the UK. This is a waste of resources and an aggravating annoyance to travelers. It also hurts airlines by forcing minimum connect times more than double than some of the UK’s continental neighbors.
But it’s not just the security screenings.
If we’re paying so much in taxes, shouldn’t we see progress in terms of the airport terminals? Why is it that in Manchester I had to travel from one terminal to another to process immigration then travel back to the same terminal. Why not…just allow me through or at least offer me security that doesn’t take 40 minutes to complete.
Or how about Heathrow Terminal 2? The “Queen’s Terminal” is beautiful…but forget about a seamless connection between Star Alliance carriers. When you land on one carrier and are connecting on another, except to walk no less than one mile from your gate to the security checkpoint and back to the gate. It’s a ridiculous set-up that lacks common sense.
These are just small examples, but there is no surprise that my Award Expert clients hate connecting in Heathrow. There is no surprise that I avoid London when possible as well, despite it being one of my favorite cities in the world.
The UK ADP (just one of a handful of UK government taxes on airfare) hurts airlines, disincentivizes air travel via the UK, and perhaps most importantly, has very little to show for it. LHR Terminal 5 is nice…but it’s still a pain. I just do not understand why the UK continues to raise this tax (which first maxed out at 10GBP) without providing commensurate benefits.
Image courtesy of Heathrow Airport