AIRLINES today welcomed the abolition of air passenger duty (APD) for children under 12 but said the move from 1 May would cause “significant practical difficulties” because of families who had already booked flights.
Chancellor George Osborne also announced that under-16s would fly APD free from 2016.
The tax was among powers which the Smith Commission recommended last week should be devolved to Scotland.
The Scottish Government has said it wants to halve the 20-year-old tax to attract more routes.
Children - and adults - pay £13 APD per UK flight, £69 for flights between 2,001 and 4,000 miles, £85 for 4,001-6,000-mile flights and £97 for longer flights.
The cut follows Mr Osborne announcing in the Budget in March that the two highest bands would be scrapped from 1 April next year.
Nathan Stower, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, which represents carriers, said: “The industry has always said that changes to APD should have at least a 12-month lead-in time due to advance bookings.
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“With devolution of APD proposed for Scotland, each party should use their manifesto to set out how they would put this seriously flawed and counter-productive tax out of its misery in the next parliament.”
EasyJet, Scotland’s busiest airline, said it would refund the tax for any children booked to fly after May.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “We support anything which makes travel easier and more affordable for our passengers and we hope this is the first step towards the complete abolition of APD.”
However, Flybe, Scotland’s number three airline after British Airways, dismissed Mr Osborne’s announcement as insignificant.
Chief executive Saad Hammad said: “This is just tinkering at the edges and represents a missed opportunity by the Chancellor to show that he is serious about the economic regeneration of the UK regions.”
Bmi Regional chief executive Cathal O’Connell said: “It shows the government has finally woken up and recognised the punitive effects of APD.
“This is a step in the right direction, but our fight against this unfair tax must continue.”
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, which speaks for foreign carriers, said major APD cuts were still required.
Chief executive Dale Keller said: “This demonstrates the growing awareness within [the UK] Government that the world’s highest air tax needs a severe pruning in order to boost the UK’s global competitiveness and create more jobs.”
Mr Osborne also announced that airlines were going to be required to list on tickets just how much of the cost had gone on fuel surcharges.
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