Good air links facilitate both business and leisure travel and are part of the lifeblood of any strong economy.
As Minister for the Economy it is my responsibility to maintain and enhance Northern Ireland’s air connectivity, both domestically and internationally.
Northern Ireland is inherently much more dependent on air connectivity than the rest of the UK, because we do not have the same rail and road options available to us.
Don’t hold off on home heating oil in hopes of price drops, expert urges Northern Ireland consumers
Planning system in Northern Ireland to go down for three weeks as computer crisis looms
NI Builders shortlisted for Excellence Awards
Postal workers set to go on strike across Northern Ireland next month
Curry’s Fun Park Portrush announce new rides, tokens and appeal for staff
That is why I firmly believe the UK Government must scrap the Air Passenger Duty (APD) that is applied to air fares between NI and GB. It is my view that APD is an unfair tax that should be addressed at a national level, as it has a particularly detrimental impact on NI passengers, due to our physical remoteness to mainland Great Britain and the lack of viable alternatives by either road or rail.
It has a direct negative impact on our inward tourism from GB and on business travel in both directions.
The impact of APD on our economy has not only been made worse by the profound economic impact inflicted by Covid-19 but is further exacerbated by the fact that the Republic of Ireland has no equivalent APD on either short haul or long haul flights.
The removal of APD was also a key request from industry representatives during the Department for Transport’s Aviation Expert Steering Group process (which ended in August 2020). My recent engagements with the local airports have only reaffirmed that view.
I continue to strongly lobby HM Treasury to have APD removed. I have also robustly raised my concerns with the head of the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review, Sir Peter Hendy, in a recent meeting with him. I am hopeful we will see some positive movement on the issue in the near future.
To help further stimulate and enhance our domestic air connectivity, my Department’s NI Domestic Aviation Kickstart Scheme (NIDAKS) is making around £4.5million available to support airlines to help kickstart NI’s economic recovery from Covid by maintaining and enhancing routes between the three local airports and GB.
NIDAKS is part of my Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan (ERAP) and was developed with input from the aviation industry. It has been warmly welcomed by the leaders of all three local airports, whom I have spoken to many times since taking up office last month.
The scheme has only been in operation for a matter of weeks but the early signs are positive, with a number of new routes, which are economically important to NI, having been introduced from all three local airports to GB destinations. This improved connectivity with GB will stimulate inbound tourism, as well as both inward and outward business travel.
It is clear that the removal of APD by Whitehall, in parallel with the positive impacts as a result of the NIDAKS, would further ease the constraints on, and barriers to, business and leisure travel, and in turn act as a significant boost to the whole economy. I will continue to fight to have this unfair tax removed.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.