On Wednesday 10th August, leading low-fares airline Flybe (BE/BEE) cancelled its route between Cardiff Airport and London City Airport. In their press release, they cited Air Passenger Duty (APD) as the reason.
Despite this “Local Champion” Alun Cairns MP has repeatedly voted to raise APD and opposed devolving it to Wales.
Air Passenger Duty is a tax on outbound flights from UK airports so if you fly from Cardiff to Paris and back you pay tax on the Cardiff to Paris flight. But for domestic routes, you pay both ways as both flights are outbound from a UK airport. On the London City flight that meant £13 from every ticket went to the government, both ways. When you are selling seats for £34.99 that’s a substantial chunk!
For medium & long-haul flights it’s even worse with up to £188 being added to the ticket price. The money raised by Air Passenger Duty goes to Westminster, not the devolved regions.
There have long been calls for Air Passenger Duty to be devolved to Wales so it can set its own rate or even abolish what many see as a flying tax but unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Westminster has denied Wales the right.
Speaking about the Flybe cancellation, Cardiff Airports Commercial Director Spencer Birns said: “APD is a punitive tax that only serves to hinder airport and airline growth and we believe that it should be abolished at the earliest opportunity”
Many argued that devolution of the Air Passenger Duty to Wales should have been included in the latest Wales Bill, which set out the devolved powers to Wales, but Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns ensured it did not form part of the bill, the dismay of many MP’s, AM’s and Lords.
Alun Cairns, who is the MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, has repeatedly opposed moves that could foster growth at Wales’ National Airport despite Cardiff Airport being a major employer in his constituency,
As an MP he has voted against devolving Air Passenger Duty to Wales and also voted to raise Air Passenger Duty rates on every occasion. Hardly the actions of a supposed “local champion”. In fact, his actions have done nothing but benefit Cardiff Airport’s English rival, Bristol.
It’s not just Cardiff Airport that would benefit from a reduced or abolished Air Passenger Duty. Making Wales a desirable place to enter the UK from would have a massive boost to the tourism industry and industry across Wales and the South West of England.
Analysts say that abolishing just long-haul Air Passenger Duty in Wales could create up to 15,000 jobs and raise GDP by 1.7% and if it was abolished across the UK, it would create up to 60,000 jobs! ֓
Unlike Bristol Airport, Cardiff Airport has the ability to handle long-haul flights using some of the largest and most economic aircraft around, that the potential is being demonstrated by Qatar Airways who launch flights in 2018 to Doha. A reduced APD rate would make Cardiff Airport attractive to US airlines offering opportunities for cheaper, direct flights to the US.
So why does a man who stands for the people of Glamorgan as an MP and as Welsh Secretary, the whole of Wales vehemently oppose something that could provide a significant boost to the whole of Wales?
Well, we asked him…
Unfortunately, Alun Cairns has declined to respond and has ignored all requests for an interview regarding Air Passenger Duty devolution.
His actions have left his welsh colleagues baffled also, in a recent interview with Aviation Wales, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies told us “From where I sit looking at the evidence I can’t see a sensible reason why APD cannot be devolved” adding “I think it’s more a political discussion rather than a rational one.”
Isn’t it time that Alun Cairns stopped playing politics with the economic growth of Wales and helped create jobs, boost tourism and promote Wales to the World by giving Wales the same rights over Air Passenger Duty as the other devolved nations of the United Kingdon.
The time is now for Air Passenger Duty to be devolved to Wales, It’s simply the right thing to do.
His actions seem to fall well short of being “local champion” where Cardiff Airport is concerned. But of course, there are two sides to every story and we’d love to put Alun Cairns’ version to the people of Wales and let them know why he backs APD remaining at Westminster, so the invitation is there Alun. (you’ve had more than one in fact…)