If you’ve ever booked a flight that departs the UK, you may have noticed that there’s a rather hefty departure tax. The UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a departure tax that adds up to £176 ($355) to the cost of your ticket! Luckily there are a few ways to avoid paying the expensive Air Passenger Duty.
The exact rate depends on the distance you’re travelling from the UK and your class of travel. The rates for short-haul flights are £13 ($26) per Economy passenger and £26 ($52) for passengers in any higher class of travel (i.e. Premium Economy, Business or First class).
Short-haul flights are defined as travel to a country whose capital city is less than 2,000 miles from London. This includes travel to all countries in Europe, as well as northern Africa, Turkey, Greenland and western Russia.
All other destinations are defined as long-haul flights and a much higher Air Passenger Duty is payable. This includes travel from the UK to Australia. Economy passengers pay £80 ($161) each while passengers in premium cabins are charged £176 ($355). These rates increased from £78/£172 on 1 April 2020.
Here is a summary of the Air Passenger Duty rates as of 1 April 2020:
The UK Air Passenger Duty was first introduced in 1994. The UK government claims that the tax is designed to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment. Critics say that the tax is merely revenue raising, noting that the efficiency of the aircraft is not taken into account and that proceeds from the tax do not actually contribute to environmental projects.
How to avoid paying the UK Air Passenger Duty
The UK Air Passenger Duty can quickly add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, especially if you’re travelling as a family. So, how can you avoid paying this tax?
Firstly, the tax only applies to international flights departing the United Kingdom. There is no charge for arriving in the UK. So, if you’d like to include a visit to the UK on your European holiday, you should consider starting there. Returning to Australia from outside of the UK will ensure you don’t pay hundreds of dollars in unnecessary taxes.
Even if you’re planning to visit only the UK, the cost of a Eurostar ticket to Paris or Brussels is often lower than the Air Passenger Duty for a long-haul flight!
If you specifically wish to take a flight that departs the UK, there is a loophole. Passengers that are in transit in the UK for less than 24 hours do not need to pay the Air Passenger Duty. So, you could fly (say) from Paris to London, spend a night in London, and then fly out of London the next day. You won’t pay the Air Passenger Duty if your layover is under 24 hours and you’re travelling on one ticket.
There is an exemption for children under the age of 16 that are flying in Economy, who do not need to pay this tax. This exemption does not apply to children flying in a premium cabin.
Another exemption applies to long-haul flights departing Northern Ireland. There is also currently a proposal to halve the Air Passenger Duty payable on flights departing Scotland.