Abolish tax on flights to the isles, Holyrood is urged
A call has been made for the Scottish government to prioritise the abolition of air passenger duty on flights to the Highlands and Islands.
The plea by Loganair’s managing director, Jonathan Hinkles, has been welcomed by council election candidate, Ryan Thomson, who has campaigned on transport links in the past.
Mr Hinkles was speaking at the Scottish Parliament’s finance and constitution committee on Wednesday. He urged the SNP administration to ditch the tax on flights to the north when it takes over responsibility for the duty in April next year. Parliament was taking evidence about the introduction of Scotland’s replacement for APD when Mr Hinkles made the call.
A tax exemption currently exists on flights from the Highlands and Islands. Mr Hinkles would like to see that “reciprocated” to cover departures from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to those destinations.
He said the economic benefits of the resultant lower travel costs would be felt in both the tourism industry and businesses based throughout the area.
He said a proportion of travel on these routes, such as NHS patient travel, was already funded by government – and argued the actual cost to the public purse of exempting these routes would be modest.
Mr Hinkles said removing the tax would also encourage passenger growth at Highlands and Islands airports, generating more income through public charges and thereby reducing Hial’s reliance on government subsidy.
“We believe this change should be prioritised in the very first set of measures to be introduced by the Scottish government. Abolishing APD on flights to the islands, well before the eventual abolition of the tax for all air services in Scotland, will make a real and immediate difference to families, tourism and businesses alike.”
“We believe this change should be prioritised in the very first set of measures to be introduced by the Scottish government.” JONATHAN HINKLES
Mr Hinkles also said that the change would further boost Sumburgh’s position as a growing hub for the oil and gas industry – by creating a level playing field between the tax treatment of passengers flying directly by helicopter to North Sea installations from Aberdeen, and those flying on fixed-wing aircraft to Shetland before transferring to helicopters there.
Currently, those flying directly by helicopter do not pay APD, but those flying part of the way on fixed-wing incur APD on that section of the journey from Aberdeen.
The airline announced late last year that it would launch operations under its own name once again from 1st September 2017, after 24 years operating under franchise agreements with British Airways and, latterly, Flybe.
Mr Thomson has campaigned for a better deal on ferry fares in the past. He welcomed moves which, he said, could make air travel more affordable, too.
“I welcome the call from Loganair’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles calling for the Scottish government to abolish air passenger duty exemption on flights coming into Sumburgh, as well as other airports in the Highlands and Islands.
“We’re beginning to finally see real improvements here in Shetland in leveling up the playing field for Shetlanders and those living on the mainland travelling here in terms of the prices we are paying both by ferry and plane and to abolish APD on flights would only have a positive impact on Shetland, our tourism trade and our economy.
“As I mentioned to islands and transport minister Humza Yousaf during our meeting in August 2016, our flights and ferry journeys are lifeline services to the mainland and these should be taxed accordingly.
“The cost of flights to and from Shetland are still relatively high for families wanting to travel and the abolition of APD on flights to Sumburgh from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh would contribute to a sizable saving for a family’s round trip to the mainland.”