US bullys UK over planned tax per flight policy


The American Embassy in London has sent a 6 page letter to the Treasury complaining about a proposed tax per flight that the UK government believes will help to incentivise airlines to fill their planes with passengers, rather than fly half full.

The letter states: “The Treasury’s proposal, although cast as an environmental measure, appears in reality to constitute nothing more than a device for generating additional revenue from the airline community.”

“There is no linkage between the funds collected from airlines and the mitigation of any environmental impact of airline emissions or any other environmental problem…Moreover, the Treasury’s proposal does not demonstrate that the new duty would influence airlines to adjust their fleets or their booking practices to achieve higher load factors…Nor are any data provided to justify the levy based on an assessment of damage from aircraft emissions.” 

The Americans also warn the Treasury that the “proposed duty raises serious legal concerns”. It details a number of international treaties and agreements which would allegedly be breached by the new tax raising the spectre of international legal action. The Americans have also sent the memo to other European governments.

Under the plans unveiled by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, last year, the way in which flights are taxed will be changed from autumn 2009. Instead of each passenger paying a fixed levy per flight, the Treasury will instead tax each plane. Airlines will then pass on the tax to passengers. The amount paid per plane will depend on how far it is travelling with the world divided into three taxation zones and European flights charged less that American and other long-haul destinations.

It’s unclear whether this tax will work and how it will impact on fares to passengers. But one thing is clear, the US should not interfere with UK policy.

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9 Responses to US bullys UK over planned tax per flight policy

  1. earthpal says:

    And another thing that is clear is that half-filled flights are ridiculously gratuituous and eco-backward. Incentivising policies that get flights filled are absolutely essential and the Americans should listen and learn rather than butt in.

  2. the Grit says:


    While I agree that the US shouldn’t interfere with UK policy, it goes both ways. If y’all are going to tax our airlines for the privilege of landing in England, our next Government, which will most likely be very liberal and very protectionist, will tax your airlines even more. This is how trade wars start, and our Leftists, in support of our labor unions, are just looking for excuses to start as many as possible. The irony here is that most all of our airlines use union labor, which goes a long way toward explaining why most all of them are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. That last part, by the way, is probably another reason the US is protesting the additional expense.

    Oh, and don’t be upset about the bullying. We do that to everyone, so it’s not personal.

    Hi earthpal,

    Well, considering how inefficiently our airlines are run, if a plane arrives with any passengers at all, it should really be a cause for celebration 🙂 Seriously though, considering how desperate our airlines are, in the face of high fuel costs, to pinch every possible penny, I don’t think they need any advice from the Government on how to not waste money. Really, if they could get away with it, they’d happily strap people to the wings.

    Now, if you really want to do something environmentally friendly, ground all private jets and helicopters. Those are the big fuel wasters.

    the Grit

  3. matt says:

    You’ll both be glad to hear that some of the first airlines going splat are indeed the business class only companies. Overall I think it’s one a week going bankrupt over there in the US. Shame innit.

  4. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    Personally, I’m surprised that, what with all the security measures, our recent court decisions affirming that airlines do have the right to strand passengers on the runway for hours without access to food, water and toilet facilities, and their continued horrible service, any of them are still in business. While our passenger train service isn’t exactly what one would call great, I think that will be my preferred mode of transport for the foreseeable future.

    the Grit

  5. matt says:

    Trains are ace! I’ve always loved taking train journeys. Trip to Paris from London is so fast now. I’ve taken trains all the way from London to Amsterdam (6hrs). Train trip Cairo to Aswan (18hrs) and Canton to Beijing (38hrs).

    Great way to relax when having to travel and meeting people if one wants to!

  6. earthpal says:

    Hi Grit.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about grounding private jets.

    Airlines might have the right to leave their passengers stranded and without sustenence but it’s pretty poor PR and will hopefully backfire on them if they choose to excercise this right. They’ve already lost one passenger . . . well done Grit. Stick with the train.

  7. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    Our son lives in New Orleans and we’ve taken the train, still called the City Of New Orleans as in the song, there and back a few times. Even though Amtrak, our national passenger train service, has had the audacity of closing the smoking cars, the leisure to watch the countryside roll by and the fun of eating in the dinning car still make it more pleasurable than flying. Also, what with ever increasing airport delays and the time necessary to make it through the security screening, the trip only takes an hour or so longer, and there’s not nearly as much chance that I’ll loose my temper and assault the flight attendant 🙂 20 – 30 of us are taking the train down there next year for his wedding, and that should be one heck of a party trip!

    Hi e,

    Beyond private planes, the real problem is business travelers. They, as you probably know, make up the majority of air line passengers, and usually for no better reason than the need for “face to face” communication. Obviously, since I completely fail to understand this, I’m no salesman, but we can hope that improvements in communication technology will reduce this waste of resources in the future.

    On the subject of train travel for personal reasons, we’re screwed over here. A coast to coast trip here takes four or five days to traverse the 2,000+ mile distance. We’ve had several attempts by Congress to improve the quality and speed of our railroads, but, given that the cost would be more than any engineering project in history, and that’s before the lawyers get involved, none has even gotten close to passage. Of course, if we had shifted all the money we’ve spent on air line subsidies into railroad upgrades… Still, what can you expect when you let Government run stuff?

    the Grit

  8. arron says:

    nnnnnoooooooo too bullying

  9. matt says:

    Absolutely arron.

    For all other readers; it was anti-bullying week in schools recently. 🙂

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