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Last Updated: Monday, 29 January 2007, 09:01 GMT
Air passenger duty increase looms
BA fast track check-in at Heathrow
BA will not be recovering the tax from some customers
As if a planned two-day strike by British Airways staff on Tuesday and Wednesday this week were not enough, some passengers of other airlines could face a different set of problems on Thursday.

From 1 February the new higher rates of Air Passenger Duty (APD) come into force.

Most airlines, both UK and foreign, have started collecting it retrospectively from passengers who bought their tickets before 6 December 2006 (or in some cases a bit later) when the Chancellor made his announcement to increase the tax.

Some passengers though may have to pay up at the check-in desk.

From Thursday, the duty will double to:

  • Economy class flights in Europe, including internal UK flights: 10
  • Business and first class flights in Europe: 20
  • Economy class long-haul flights: 40
  • Business and first class long-haul flights: 80

The tax rise does not affect package holiday bookings made before the chancellor's announcement as the tour operators have had to absorb this increase themselves.

Given the disruption already facing BA, the airline must now be grateful that it decided right from the start that it would be too much hassle to collect the extra tax from its passengers.

Instead it will take the extra 11m cost on the chin.

However things are different at other UK airlines.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC

Virgin has already levied the tax on tickets bought from 13 December 2006 onwards where the flight is from 1 February.

It has been urging its customers who bought tickets before that date to pay the extra tax via its web site at least 48hrs ahead of flying, to print off the receipt and bring it with them.

Those handing a receipt in at the check-in desk will get a sweetener - a discount voucher for a future flight with Virgin, amounting to 20 off an economy trip or 40 off a premium economy or upper class ticket.

Staff will be going up and down the queues telling people if they have to pay
Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman

In other words they are being offered the extra tax back if they fly again with the airline.

"Staff will be going up and down the queues telling people if they have to pay," said a spokeswoman.

Those passengers who have not paid in advance will have to pay when they check in, either by cash or debit or credit card. Cheques will not be accepted.

Anyone paying in advance but who is not on the airline's list (perhaps because they have paid very late) and who also forgets to bring the receipt with them, will have to pay again.

But they will be able to reclaim the excess payment later.

Anyone refusing to pay the extra duty will not be allowed to fly.

Extra staff will be on duty to handle the situation, the airline says.

EASYJET

E-mails have been sent out three times to between 300,000 and 350,000 customers who will be flying in the two months from this Thursday, but who bought their tickets before Gordon Brown's announcement.

We are not expecting any significant trouble collecting the money on the day
Toby Nicol, Easyjet

They have been urged to pay 5 each to cover the extra tax via the Easyjet website.

Travellers who have not done so will simply have to pay up when they check in. "We are not expecting any significant trouble collecting the money on the day," said Easyjet spokesman Toby Nicol.

However the airline does not know how many of its passengers have paid in advance or will pay on the day.

Cash, cheques, credit and debt cards will all be accepted.

RYANAIR

Michael O'Leary
Michael O'Leary has denounced the chancellor as Greedy Gordon

Ryanair has been engaged in a high-profile campaign against the tax, denouncing it as "ridiculous and anti-consumer".

Customers who bought tickets before 7 December for travel from Thursday onwards have had the extra tax deducted from the credit or debit card used to make the original booking.

Customers have been told in advance by e-mail that this would happen.

FLYBE

The airline is based at regional airports like Exeter, Southampton, Birmingham, Glasgow and Aberdeen and more than 80% of its booking are over the internet.

We expect little more than a trickle of passengers paying on the day
Niall Duffy, Flybe

It has already collected more than 70% of the extra tax being levied for February.

It is charging its customers a flat 5 for flights booked before 11 December.

"We are asking them to pay seven days before - and they will have to pay before they get on the plane" said spokesman Niall Duffy.

But this has not happened automatically - with customers having to pay via the airline's website or by calling its customer booking number.

Anyone failing to do so will have to pay on the day at check-in.

"We expect little more than a trickle of passengers paying on the day", Mr Duffy said.

BMI & BMIBABY

BMI and its low cost subsidiary Bmibaby have adopted different policies, so far.

BMI has not been collecting the tax from those passengers who bought tickets before the chancellor's announcement.

However Bmibaby, has been doing so.

Passengers who bought their tickets before December 9th are having their debit or credit cards automatically debited for the extra tax.

All affected passengers should have received an e-mail telling them this would happen.

And if they bought their ticket through a travel agent then the agent may now be asking for the top-up payment.

But what if the original credit card has expired or been cancelled so that no payment can be deducted?

Bmibaby says if the tax has not been collected by the day of departure then it must be paid at the airport - otherwise the passenger will not be allowed to board.




SEE ALSO
Brown rebuked over air duty hike
25 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
Ryanair boss attacks Brown on tax
10 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
Millions face air tax uncertainty
16 Dec 06 |  Moneybox
Brown to double taxes on flights
06 Dec 06 |  Business

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