The term “luck of the Irish” tends to be associated with prosperity and good fortune, qualities that have proven hard to find in recent years. However, with the recent announcement that Ireland is to scrap Air Passenger Duty in April next year, it looks as though the Irish are making their own luck, with Ryanair recently announcing it will be operating eight new services out of Shannon.
Politicians are repeatedly asking for evidence of airlines making decisions because of APD. Ryanair has shown that airlines will come if Air Passenger Duty goes. It’s as simple as that. The Airport Operators Association predicts these new Ryanair flights will boost Shannon Airport’s passenger growth by 15 per cent. This means more overseas visitors travelling to Ireland and more money being invested into the Irish economy.
Scottish airports have been lobbying for the abolition of Air Passenger Duty for a long time and we will continue to argue for its cancellation or devolution.
The UK has the highest level of Air Passenger Duty by some distance but protests continue to fall on deaf ears. As recent economic studies have proven, Air Passenger Duty is costing us dearly in terms of attracting inward investment. PriceWaterhouseCooper announced earlier this year that if this tax was lifted, the UK economy would be boosted by at least £16 billion in the first three years and almost 60,000 extra jobs would be created.
The answer from government? Air Passenger Duty is assisting in paying off the deficit.
We all know that new routes are crucial to Scotland’s growth. We’ve had a good year in this respect at Edinburgh with Virgin and Air Canada joining us and increased services from Turkish, easyJet, Ryanair and United.
Air Passenger Duty is hugely damaging to the aviation industry and something which will inevitably stop airlines from investing in the UK.
We’re just back from the World Routes conference in Las Vegas where we had some very positive meetings with current and potential carriers. Edinburgh and Scotland sell themselves; it’s the work we need to do to persuade airlines to invest in a country with one of the highest rates of Air Passenger Duty in the world that’s the challenge.
We’re doing our best – investing £150 million in our airport over the next five years, improving security facilities, improving our service to passengers and airlines and working hard to give Scotland the airport it deserves.
But we do this with one arm tied behind our back – at best we’re £13 per flight behind the competition and, as Ireland has shown, that counts.
Next year will be a huge year for Scotland. We’re about to host two of the biggest sporting events in the world and all eyes will be on us. Now I know we’re going to put on one hell of a show but shouldn’t we be making it easier for people to get here? An extra £200 per family for a holiday is enough to make people reconsider.
It’s a simple principle and our Celtic cousins are already reaping the benefits. By continuing to push this damaging tax to record levels, it’s a no-win game and it’ll be the economy, the airlines and above all the passenger which loses out.
Gordon Dewar is chief executive of Edinburgh Airport