Flybe: UK air tax change considered to save airline

flybe planeImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Flybe says air passenger duty unfairly burdens its domestic customers

The government is considering changing air passenger duty rates for all domestic flights as part of a deal to save Flybe from collapse.

Chancellor Sajid Javid will meet with the business and transport departments on Tuesday to discuss the move, the BBC’s business editor says.

By altering air passenger duty for all airlines, the government will avoid breaching EU state aid rules.

It would also improved regional connectivity – a key manifesto pledge.

Sky News reports a possible deal over air passenger duty could defer a payment of more than £100m for three years.

It would potentially give Flybe time to implement a turnaround plan, financed by a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic which rescued the regional airline a year ago.

It would also secure more than 2,000 jobs at Flybe which are at risk if the company fails.

Flybe is a long-time critic of air passenger duty which it said disproportionately burdens its domestic customers because they have to pay £13 each time they take off from a UK airport.

Changes to air passenger duty could reduce the billions of pounds it generates for the government, which is expected to reach £3.7bn this financial year, according to Office for Budget Responsibility.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson made improving transport links in the UK’s regions a central plank of the Conservative Party manifesto.

Flybe carries about eight million passengers a year from airports such as Southampton, Cardiff and Aberdeen, to the UK and Europe.

Its network of routes includes more than half of UK domestic flights outside London.

Image copyright Flybe
Image caption More than 2,000 jobs are at risk if Flybe fails to secure funding

A group of local councils in Devon, where Flybe is headquartered, said: “We are aware that certain aspects of national policy, notably the air passenger duty regime in relation to domestic flights, has a significant impact on the company’s business model.”

Flybe came close to collapse a year ago but was rescued by Virgin Atlantic, Southend Airport-owner Stobart Group and hedge fund Cyrus Capital Partners.

They paid £2.8m for the airline and agreed to invest £100m in the loss-making business.

Flybe has refused to comment on talks over a rescue.

Its chief executive Mark Anderson told staff on Monday the airline is continuing to operate as normal.

“I do appreciate that the headlines some of you have already read are disturbing but I want you to know that we are determined to do everything we can to make this work,” he said.

Your rights

Image copyright Reuters

As long as Flybe carries on flying, there is no need to worry and certainly no reason to try to get your money back, writes Simon Gompertz, BBC personal finance correspondent.

If the airline was to fail, however, all flights would most likely be cancelled. Those with paid-for bookings could find they lose their flights and their cash.

If your flight is part of a package deal covered by the ATOL scheme, then you should be protected and have the right to a re-booking or refund.

Otherwise you can try to retrieve the money from your credit card company, if that’s how you paid. There is also a debit card chargeback scheme which can help.

Many travel insurance policies are not much use in these situations, unless you stumped up extra for the Scheduled Airline Failure option or something similar.

Those stuck overseas might be left hoping that the government will direct the CAA to step in, as it did when Monarch and Thomas Cook went under, to bring back stranded passengers for free.

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