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Edinburgh airport chief unhappy about Scottish government’s decision not to reduce air passenger duty

Edinburgh airport chief executive Gordon Dewar has described the Scottish government’s decision not to reduce air passenger duty (APD) as a “short sighted” move, which contributed to Norwegian’s decision to cut two routes from the gateway this winter.

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Speaking at the Routes Europe conference in Bilbao on 22 April, Dewar described the decision by the Scottish executive not to go ahead with plans to replace ADP with a new lower air departure tax in April 2018 as “unfortunate”.

“They [Norwegian] were promised by the Scottish government that APD was going to be reduced by the end of this parliament, which is looming, and yet there is no commitment to do that yet,” he says.

Norwegian previously opened routes from Edinburgh to Stewart, Hartford and Providence. It suspended flights to Hartford in March and will halt services to Providence this winter.

The Scandinavian airline noted that when it began operating the Hartford route in June 2017 there was the “prospect” that Scotland’s government would cut APD this year.

Dewar notes Norwegian experienced “soft” load factors on the two routes. He suggests that if the government had “done what it said” and cut APD, this would have helped the Oslo-based carrier maintain those services.

In October 2017, finance secretary Derek Mackay told the Scottish parliament that securing EU approval for continuing to exempt Highlands and Islands airports from air tax would delay the whole process of reducing APD.

Dewar said he was “still very confident” that the Scottish government could be persuaded to cut APD within the next two years.

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Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh Airport complains about Air Passenger Duty

Giving control over Air Passenger Duty (APD) to the Scottish Parliament could encourage visitors to come to the country for the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games, transport and tourism bosses say.

The Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup will be held in Scotland next year but some industry leaders believe tourists could be put off from flying to the country because of high APD charges.

Late last year, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports commissioned a report that claimed the charge could lead to a drop in both passengers and tourism spending. The tax could cost the Scottish economy £210 milliona year by 2016 and reduce the number of visitors by 2.1 million a year.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “Scotland will welcome the world in 2014 courtesy of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, and yet we are in the absurd situation of increasing costs for people who intend to visit Scotland.

“The ‘World Economic Forum, Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013’ shows that the UK has amongst the highest aviation taxes and charges in the world, ranked 139th out of 140.

“I would urge the UK Government to deliver devolution of APD as soon as possible so that we can develop a regime that makes Scotland more competitive.”

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said airlines are questioning the viability of basing planes in Scotland because of APD.

He said: “This tax has now hit its tipping point where the damage that it is doing to Scotland far outweighs the benefits. It cannot stand and must be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

“Airlines are telling us that they are seeing it have an impact on passenger flows which is ultimately having an impact on their decision making on where to put planes. This means that our country has to work harder to get the connections it requires.

“The evidence lays bare the argument that this tax is assisting with the deficit. Rather, APD is hindering our ability to tackle the economic challenges Scotland faces.”