‘FlyBe will increase city flights if air tax devolved’

Paul Simmons says cutting air taxes would boost airlines and the economy. Picture: Tim Anderson
Paul Simmons says cutting air taxes would boost airlines and the economy. Picture: Tim Anderson
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A major UK airline has said it will increase the number of routes it operates out of Edinburgh Airport if UK Government air taxes are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and cut.

The chief commercial officer of FlyBe, which operates 14 domestic routes from the Capital and is set to launch another service to London City Airport on October 27, branded air passenger duty “ridiculous” and called for it to be scrapped.

Paul Simmons said he hoped the tax, which is current administered by the UK Government, will be included in the package of additional powers for Scotland currently being negotiated by a cross-party group of politicians.

Mr Simmons said the growth of Edinburgh Airport, which is poised to hit its target of ten million passengers this calendar year, was a “good news story” that FlyBe was pleased to be a part of.

However, he added: “There is one fly in the ointment.”

Mr Simmons said: “The devolution package is very much up for debate. It would be interesting to see if devolution of APD is something that will be part of that or not. If it does come along, it will stimulate the market once again, which will be great for Edinburgh.

“If you look at the impact of someone operating domestically, like ourselves, essentially it’s a £26 tax on flying to Manchester or London, which is just ridiculous and punitive.

“It would be hard to say exactly how many new services would come along, but I know that they would because the margins in this industry are so fine that small changes do make a big difference. We would look to create new routes and new frequencies, bringing more people into the Capital.”

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, backed Mr Simmons’ call.

He said: “We have been vocal about air passenger duty and lobbied for its abolition for a long time. However, our calls continue to fall on deaf ears.

“The UK already has the highest level of APD compared to anywhere else in the world, making us uncompetitive with our European counterparts.

“Reducing or abolishing APD would increase business productivity and boost airline investment, two things which would ultimately improve international business connections and employment opportunities.”

The SNP have pledged to slash APD if it is devolved to Holyrood, ahead of eliminating it altogether. Nationalist MSP for Edinburgh Western Colin Keir, whose constituency includes the airport, said: “Our travelling public and our businesspeople are paying through the nose for nothing more than extra money for George Osborne. The Chancellor has ignored all pleas to devolve a tax that hurts this city.”

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “Lord Smith has been asked by the Prime Minister to consider proposals for additional powers for the Scottish Parliament. Any interested parties should submit proposals to him.”