Loganair has called on the Scottish Government to prioritise abolition of Air Passenger Duty (APD) on flights to the Highlands and Islands when it takes over responsibility for the tax in April next year.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee, which is taking evidence about the introduction of Scotland’s replacement for Air Passenger Duty, Loganair’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles said: “We believe there is a compelling case for the present tax exemption on flights from the Highlands and Islands to be reciprocated to cover departures from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to those very same points.”
Hinkles told the committee that the economic benefits of the resultant lower travel costs would be felt in both the tourism industry and businesses based throughout the Highlands and Islands.
He said a proportion of travel on these routes, such as NHS patient travel, is already funded by Government – so the actual cost to the public purse of exempting these routes will be modest.
Removing the tax would also encourage passenger growth at HIAL airports, generating more income through public charges and thereby reducing HIAL’s reliance on Government subsidy.
He added: “We believe this change should be prioritised in the very first set of measures to be introduced by the Scottish Government. Abolishing APD on flights to the islands, well before the eventual abolition of the tax for all air services in Scotland, will make a real and immediate difference to families, tourism and businesses alike.”
Echoing these sentiments was Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell.
He commented: "Abolishing APD on flights to the islands is a perfect opportunity for the Scottish Government to demonstrate how serious they are about giving island areas a level playing field on the back of the productive discussions we have had with them on the Islands Bill. Island areas rely heavily on business and tourism to boost tour economy and the lower travel costs would certainly help us in that regard. This move would also greatly help the many families throughout the islands who are often priced out of travelling between mainland and island airports.
“We look forward to supporting Loganair on this move and further positive engagement with the Scottish Government on making air services more accessible to all.
“A similar case can also be made for making the Air Discount Scheme apply to all users. This will ensure a more cost effective business case for plane replacement, maximum usage and maximum connectivity in the future.”