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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

The Air Travel Advisory Bureau is on the side of UK air passengers who have yet to receive refunds of their Air Passenger Duty tax on cancelled airline tickets. UK airlines are said to be “ripping them off.”

You know those additional fees no one really likes paying but someone has to pay? Air Passenger Duty is one of them, charged to passengers to and from certain airports. It’s a maintenance tax that allows airports extra income to better their facilities. The tax is only paid to the government by the airline if the passenger actually flies. If the passenger does not, that money must be refunded in full, but in most cases it’s not.

Some airlines, particularly low cost ones, make cancelling your flight so expensive in “admin fees” that they hope it will deter passengers from doing it. The magazine Which estimates that Ryanair, for example, collected close to £5 million in excess in 2003 in un-refunded taxes.

There’s no way of really knowing since airlines are not required to report how much income was gained from not refunding APD taxes. The governing authority here is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. They only require airlines to report the number of departing passengers on flights, therefore it’s easy for them to calculate how much ADP is required to be paid.

It’s easy to see from scams like this that airfare prices need to be more transparent. Airfares advertised with low cost airlines in particular are loaded with additional fees, charging for everything from luggage to boarding passes. Do passengers really know what they’re paying for and what’s (not) included in the price?

What did the Air Travel Advisory Bureau have to say about this when it came to light? “I am amazed that the airline industry has been allowed to sink to its present condition. In the last ten years air travel is the only major form of transportation that has gone backwards.” (Tony White, chairman ATAB)

Do you think airlines should be penalised for not refunding the APD? Should airfares be more transparent?

Img: davidreber, Flickr cc.

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3 responses to “‘UK airlines ripping off air passengers’

  1. Well I think the fairest thing is that the APD money should be automatically refunded to your credit or debit card without any charge at all if you don't fly. It is relally obscene that they hang on to a tax that they have collected for teh government and then not had to hand over. At least Dick Turpin had the courtesy to wear a mask!

  2. Thanks for your comment, we'd love to know whether you get a response from the Transport minister on the topic. Seems incredible airlines are getting away with pocketing all this extra money. But what do you think should change: the laws surrounding this ADP tax or the regulation of “cancellation fees” from airlines?

  3. Thank goodness someone is addressing this problem. It is quite extraordinary that an airline can collect a government tax and then if you do not fly charge you more in “administration charges” to reclaim it, than the original tax. I think I'll join the ATAB campaign and write to the Transport minister. This has to stop!

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