Air Passenger Duty has been slashed on long-haul flights departing Northern Ireland, as the UK government attempts to address competition for services from Dublin.
Until now economy tickets on Continental flights from Belfast to New York (the only long-haul service from the Northern Irish airport) have been subject to £60 in APD charges, with business class fares subject to a £120 fee. This compares to a charge of just €3 for flights departing from Dublin.
But from November 1 the APD on these flights will be reduced to that equal to short-haul services - £12 for economy flights and £24 for business class routes.
There had been fears that Continental would drop its Belfast-New York route, but a statement from the Treasury Press Office said that the service will now “continue to operate, maintaining Northern Ireland’s vital economic air link to North America, and Northern Ireland will gain a fresh opportunity to develop other long-haul routes to the rest of the world”.
The release said that Northern Ireland’s airports operate in “unique circumstances within the UK”, adding that “the land border with the Republic of Ireland, with its differential rates of air passenger tax had threatened to make long-haul flights from Belfast uneconomic”.
In recognition of this The Treasury said it would now launch a process to devolve aspects of APD to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Report by Mark Caswell