UK government needs to listen to the travel industry

The aviation industry is not getting a lot of love from the government these days.

2009 is a year in which government support could make a huge difference.

It is very clear from recent reports from the CAA, the OAG and IATA that passenger numbers are considerably lower than a year ago, both in the UK and internationally.

IATA has just predicted that airlines will lose US$4.7 billion this year compared to the US$8.5 billion lost in 2008.

One bright spot currently is the fall in the current jet fuel price which is down 63.2% from a year ago (IATA).

This should save airlines about US$52 Billion compared to last year.   However with demand for premium passenger fares well down and with passenger traffic expected to contract overall by 5.7% over the year, the jet fuel price is only  a ray of light in an otherwise challenging time.

It is therefore no wonder travel bosses are now demanding a government U-turn on the planned huge hike in Air Passenger Duty which will add up to £170 to long-haul fares.

The UK should follow the Dutch Government’s lead in deciding to abandon its flights tax.

ABTA has renewed its call for the UK to abandon APD. This is a position which Cheapflights has long supported.

As if being saddled with £2 billion APD is not enough, more costs are looming later this year in the form of the Orwellian e-Borders scheme.

This will require carriers to ensure that all travellers abroad (by whatever mode of transport) comply with the regulations.

In order to travel abroad, sensitive very personal information will be required to be  submitted at least a day before departure which includes passport and credit card details, home address, phone number and exact travel itinerary.

It’s unnerving to have personal information on record for up to a decade when the UK government has a less than gleaming record in keeping that information secure. It’s even more unnerving with the prospect of facing a £5,000 fine or possible criminal prosecution for not submitting this sensitive information.

As a consumer champion, opposes the government’s use of e-borders. The government claims it is protecting the public but e-borders will seriously infringe on consumers’ civil rights.

Also, this additional Stalinist hurdle to freedom to travel from the UK is not what ordinary travellers seek when planning a holiday abroad and is likely to negatively impact on the industry when it is rolled out.

This is clearly not a scenario to engender much optimism for industry prospects.

However, for the consumer the silver lining may well be that air fares will remain under pressure as airlines compete to fill seats.

This year travel companies are offering significantly more competitive prices to various Pound stretching destinations and there are some fabulous bargains available for travellers.

We are currently seeing return deals from London, inclusive of taxes for Nice from £28; Dalaman from £112 and New York from £218.

So for the consumer at least there is hope that in these straightened times there may remain some bargain travel deals for the foreseeable future.

Chris Cuddy is chief executive of Cheapflights

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