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(Last updated: March 2017)
The UK Air Passenger Duty (also known as APD) is a government tax that is levied on flights FROM the United Kingdom. It’s somewhat controversial, as there are several groups (including British Airways) within the UK who feel that it is unnecessary and a hurt to tourism. The rates for the UK Air Passenger Duty 2017 rates are as follows (from gov.uk)
The UK Air Passenger Duty rates for Band A (shorter flights) have remained the same for several years, but the Band B UK Air Passenger Duty cost has gone up by several pounds a year.
Before April of 2015, there were additional bands (for flights over 4,000 miles), but starting April 1st (no joke!) the UK Air Passenger Duty will be in 2 flights. Also note that until April 1st, the Band B APD is £69 /£138 (the Band A amount is staying the same).
So what are some ways that you can (legally!) avoid paying the UK Air Passenger Duty?
Spend less than 24 hours in the UK
If you spend less than 24 hours in the UK, then you are not charged the UK Air Passenger Duty. So if you are looking to avoid the UK APD, then you can make London a layover rather than a destination – you just need to make sure your flight the next day leaves less than 24 hours after you arrive.
Note that if you are flying into the UK on one airline / PNR, have a layover in London and then departing the UK on another airline, your second airline WILL charge you the UK Air Passenger Duty (because they don’t know anything about your only having been in the UK under 24 hours. I have heard reports that if you show that airline your inbound flight information that you can get the UK APD refunded. I’d love to hear others’ experiences with that.
Fly TO the UK, but depart elsewhere
Another option is to fly to the UK, but depart elsewhere.
If you’re flying roundtrip to the UK, you can avoid UK APD by taking an Open Jaw flight. One example would be below, where outbound you fly from New York to London, but your return goes from MADRID back to New York. You’re of course responsible for your own transportation between London and Madrid, and if you fly out of the UK, you will have to pay the UK Air Passenger Duty.
Another option is to use something like British Airways’ Reward Flight Saver, where many flights within Europe have a flat rate (currently $27.50 one-way) for UK Air Passenger Duty, fuel surchages and any other airport taxes.
Be under 16 years old
Starting on March 1 2016, the UK Air Passenger Duty is not collected on children who are 16 and under if they are traveling in the lowest class of service (generally Economy). If someone under 16 is flying in business class, the UK APD will be charged. If you booked a flight before then and were charged UK APD, you are eligible to have it refunded.
Currently UK Air Passenger Duty is not charged on infants under 2 years old who don’t have their own ticket (lap infants)
Leave from Northern Ireland
The rates for the UK Air Passenger Duty on direct long-haul flights departing from Northern Ireland are set by the Northern Ireland Assembly as of the Finance Act 2012, and they have currently set those rates to 0.
Currently, the only long-haul flight originating from Northern Ireland is a United Airlines flight going from Belfast (BFS) to Newark (EWR). If you connect via London, then you will pay the full UK Air Passenger Duty (even if you do not have a stopover)
Reduced UK Air Passenger Duty
The UK APD is less if you are in Economy Class (technically speaking, the “lowest class available on the airplane”, though there’s an exception for flights with no economy class – then everyone pays)
Air passenger duty is paid upon booking, but not collected until an occupied seat flies. If a passenger be unable to fly they have a right to claim the paid tax back from the airline, although many airlines will charge an administrative fee for this service.
Has this helped? Ever used one of these strategies to not pay the UK Air Passenger Duty?