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Consumers prepare for hike in airfares as new flight taxes take effect

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Consumers are preparing for a hike in airfares next week as new flight taxes or 'air passenger duty' rates come into effect on 1st November for all routes out of the UK.

Air passenger duty was introduced in 1994. Initially, costs were calculated according to whether travellers were flying long-haul or short-haul.

Since 2009, however, these costs have changed to fall into four distance bands -- A, B, C and D, where D is the most expensive.

Within each band there is what is known as a 'reduced rate' (for passengers in the lowest class of travel) and a 'standard rate' (for passengers in other than the lowest class of travel).

The table below shows the new rates of passenger duty for each band (NB. the level of the increase within each band is shown in brackets):

Band and approximate
distance from London to the capital city of the country concerned (except Russia,
which is split east / west
of the Urals)

Air passenger duty in the
lowest class of travel (reduced rate) *
Air passenger duty in other than the lowest class of travel (standard rate) *

Band A
0-2,000 miles

£12 (+1) £24 (+2)
Band B
2,001-4,000 miles
£60 (+15) £120 (+30)

Band C
4,001-6,000 miles

£75 (+25)

£150 (+50)
Band D
over 6,000 miles
£85 (+30) £170 (+60)

* Duty applies 1 November 2010 to 31 October 2011.

The Association of British Travel Agents has complained that the new air passenger duty rates are "socially regressive" and impact most upon those who can least afford it and lead to families being priced out of taking flights. "This is especially acute for lower socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities visiting friends and relatives abroad," ABTA says.

Phil Salcedo Travelzoo UK agrees: "Those most affected by these changes will be families as they will be travelling in larger groups and all children over the age of two are subject to the full APD price hikes. Business class passengers will also be badly affected. The only consolation is that if passengers are upgraded they will not be stung for the higher-priced APD, so the joy of the 'free upgrade' will be allowed to continue - at least for now."

"The sad fact, however, is that around 30% of the travel deals that we check simply don't include taxes in the price. This means that, with this new increase in tax, travellers need to be extra wary and make sure the price they expect to pay doesn't massively increase when they get to a page of taxes.

"We don't think this is fair and we won't feature or recommend deals from any travel company that doesn't publish taxes and charges up front."

Many within the travel industry have also complained about the categorisation of countries into bands according to their capital city's distance from London. This has created several anomalies in the system. For example, for flights to big countries like America, it will be possible to travel to the state of Hawaii and pay less tax than if you travel to Jamaica, which is much closer.

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