Understanding and avoiding the UK’s Air Passenger Duty

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I feel like I'm penalised by the UK's Government every time I fly out of the country. Why? Air Passenger Duty. It applies to nearly everyone who flies from the UK.

APD is a tax levied by the UK Government on passengers whose air travel originates from the UK (with exceptions…which I'll get to!). It can add a significant amount onto your ticket. The rates are calculated based distance to the “capital city of the country of your final destination”. For travel after 1st April 2013, the rates are as follows:

  • Band A; 0-2,000 miles: £13 for economy class, £26 for premium
  • Band B; 2,001-4,000 miles: £67 for economy class, £134 for premium
  • Band C; 4,001-6,000 miles: £83 for economy class, £166 for premium
  • Band D; 6,000+ miles: £94 for economy class, £188 for premium

Don't forget that the rates are based on where in the APD bands your capital city lies. So an extreme example of where this lies in your favour is if you are buying a ticket from London to Vladivostok in far East of Russia just beside Japan, then your APD is calculated based on London-Moscow, i.e. £13. This is despite Vladivostok itself lying in the £83 Band C area. (Thanks to Barry for helping me further clarify this point)

For a quick visual reference, here are those bands:

From GCMap, the four APD Bands are indicated by progressively darker shading.

From GCMap, the four APD Bands are indicated by progressively darker shading.

If you want to fly to Australia in anything other than economy class – £188 in pure taxes. Ouch. That's money to the Government, not the airline nor the airport. For a family of four travelling in premium economy class that's £752 for the human necessity of comfort or avoiding potential “Economy Class Syndrome”.

So here are some options on how to minimise or avoid APD altogether.

1) As far as the Government is concerned, the “final destination” is where you have your first stop of more than 24 hours or where you have no further connecting flights. So in this instance, it will make sense to add in a stopover of more than 24 hours within 2000 miles of London if your onwards destination is even further. (Please note the difference between a stopover (>24hrs) and a transfer (<24hrs))

Example: London to Bangkok, stop for 2 days, then Bangkok to Sydney. All on one ticket. APD Band C.

2) You also do not pay APD or other Government taxes if you are flying form another country and transferring in the UK for another international flight. You will however be subject to “UK Passenger Service Charge” which is an airport fee rather than tax.

Example: Brussels to London, transfer for up to 24 hours, then London to New York. All on one ticket. No APD.

3) In addition to number 2), You do not pay APD if you start from Jersey, Channel Islands. UK. This particular trick has been known to most of Flyertalk's British users who fly premium cabins. If you can ticket your journey to start from JER then you can fly all the way to Sydney in first class (with the necessary connections of course) and won't get stung with APD. Currently British Airways serves Jersey from London Gatwick (LGW) which will make connecting onto long haul flights at Heathrow a major hassle. BA still currently serve many destinations from Gatwick, though obviously not as many as Heathrow. Be warned that flights from Jersey are especially prone to delays/cancellations due to fog!

Example: Jersey to London, transfer for up to 24 hours, London to New York. All on one ticket. No APD.

My best advice is to use options 1 or 2, because of the weather problems at JER. My advice changes specifically to those whose flights that must start in the UK, such as those redeeming their British Airways 2-for-1 Avios vouchers or those buying British Airways “Hotlines” tickets. Then your only options are to fly from JER (if your airline allows it) or to stump up the full APD. Your choice!

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Comments

  1. The map bands are not correct / too simplistic.

    APD is based on the distance to the CAPITAL CITY of the country you are travelling to, not the actual destination airport.

    Consider the US on your map – the APD is the same to New York as it is to LAX…but the map suggests otherwise.

  2. It’s also a favourite of mileage/tier point runners in the YK to start in Ex-EU destinations (such as Paris – or my favourite, Dublin). Providing you time your connections well, you’ll be plenty of cash ahead.

    An example: last year LHR – DEN =£650, DUB-DEN via LHR = £480. Even adding in the positioning flights at £60 that’s an extra £110 in your pocket – £68 that should had gone of the UK governments.

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