Today I received a letter from British Airways CEO Keith Williams (well, it was a mass e-mail to Executive Club members ) about the the APD (Air Passenger Duty) that the airlines must pay for each passenger departing UK airports and what is trying to be done about it. For the last several years passengers that depart the UK pay much higher taxes than any other airport (that I know of anyway). In fact, according to Mr. Williams e-mail they have risen as much as 300% on some routes since 2006.
Why I found this e-mail interesting was not only did it have a link to voice ones displeasure with the APD, http://www.afairtaxonflying.org/ but it is the first time I actually heard British Airways trying to do something about it (although I am sure they have). I have always thought these taxes must be hurting their business as well as the English economy. I know I have personally not been to the UK nearly as much the last 6 years as the 6 years prior. Part of the reason was these high taxes levied on flights from the UK. Making ticket prices higher (and award tickets as well) not only to and from the UK, but also thru the UK.
I have been an Executive Club member for almost 20 years and a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club member for 10. While I do not fly these airlines that often, I do accumulate miles from credit card purchases, hotel stay, car rentals, etc. (Virgin is very generous in awarding miles for these activities). Prior to 2006 I had redeemed a round-trip Upper Class ticket with Virgin and 2 First Class tickets with BA. So I was very happy with both programs. But around 2007 I first noticed the high taxes departing London when I redeemed an award on BA from LHR to Moscow and it cost over $300 for a one way ticket (if I used award the other direction it would have been less than $20). Then last year I earned a great bonus from my Chase British Airways Visa card. A free companion ticket on an award ticket. So for 100,000 miles I could get 2 free Business Class tickets. At the same time British Airways resumed their service from SAN to LHR. So I searched for availability for 2 Business Class tickets for my wife and I to go to London for a long weekend. There were plenty of seats available, but to my shock the cost on these 2 “free” tickets was $1500. So I thought maybe this was because I was using a companion voucher. I checked again for just 1 ticket and taxes & fees came to $750. At the time I was aware BA had advertised ridiculously low fares but when they added their fees & taxes they were not so great (or same as other airlines). I just didn’t think they would do this with an award ticket. I then checked to see if Virgin was doing the same thing and to my disappointment a free Upper Class ticket was also more than $500. At that point (and today as well) I no longer thought that these two programs were as rewarding as they had been. I can redeem miles on Delta, American, or United to London and not pay the high fees BA & Virgin charge (but still pay the high taxes). Now, there are still a few good uses for redeeming miles on Virgin and British Airways. I just redeemed a one way award from DME (Moscow) to LHR in 1st Class using 30,000 BA Avios points (I am very excited – International First Class on this flight) and paid less than $20 in taxes. But anything that flies out of the UK will have a high APD.
The point to all of this is twofold. If you go to this site; http://www.afairtaxonflying.org/ and are a UK resident click on “post code” on the top. If not a UK resident click on “not a UK resident” on upper right and it will take you to where you can give your name and write a short letter complaining about the high APD that are currently charged. Hopefully this will not only lower the fares to and from the UK and flights thru the UK, but also award tickets for the same.
The second thing is to expose British Airways & Virgin for the outrageous fees they charge on some routes for redeeming award tickets. I just looked at 3 airlines for a “free Business Class award ticket” from LAX to LHR in October/November of this year. All three required 100,000 miles (round-trip) and all were non-stop. The cost is shocking. BA $1200, Virgin $1100, United $278 (outbound was $2.50, return was $276). To further show how high the taxes are flying out of the UK, the same award ticket on United flying from LAX to AMS (same 100,000 miles for same business class) costs $62 round-trip. The APD is a little less when flying economy (as are the fees for BA & Virgin). But if they do not stop raising the Air Passenger Duty the airlines must pay it will definitely have an impact on the health of BA & Virgin as well as England’s economy. And if BA & Virgin stop charging exorbitant fees (I did hear BA was being sued for this) it will actually make these award tickets actually seem like an award ticket.