What is Air Passenger Duty?

Flying has allowed us to spread our wings further and easier than ever before, it has made the world smaller and expanded our horizons more than any other mode of travel. If you have flown in recent years, then you may be familiar with Air Passenger Duty (APD); a tax that is paid on any flight departing from a UK airport, whether to an overseas or domestic destination.

Air Passenger Duty was first introduced in 1994 and was set at a rate of £5 for flights to the UK or EU, and at £10 for any other destination. Up until April 2015 there were four tax bands. Today there are only two.

You can read more about Airport Passenger Duty on the HM Treasury’s website.

  • As of 1 April 2015, there are two APD bands, determined by the distance between London and the capital of your destination country.
  • The APD rate you pay depends on which band your flight falls under and the class of travel that you choose.
  • There are three rates of APD for each destination band - reduced, standard and higher - determined by the class of travel.
  • The UK rules for APD do not apply to flights from Northern Ireland.

How does APD affect you?

If you are taking a flight in the not so distant future, you may be wondering how APD will affect you. The bands and rates below apply to all flights that depart from England, Scotland and Wales. There is another separate table covering the bands and rates that apply to flights departing from Northern Ireland.

APD rates and bands

Information in tables from HMRC.

Bands (approximate distance
in miles from London)
Reduced rates (lowest class
of travel)
Standard rates (other than the
lowest class of travel)
Higher rates (for travel in aircraft
to carry fewer than 19 passengers)
From 1 April 2018 From 1 April 2018 From 1 April 2018
Band A (0-2,000) £13 £26 £78
Band B (Over 2,000) £78 £156 £468
From 1 April 2017 From 1 April 2017 From 1 April 2017
Band A (0-2,000) £13 £26 £78
Band B (Over 2,000) £75 £150 £450

Northern Ireland rates and bands

In 2012, the Northern Ireland Assembly was given control over Northern Ireland’s tax rates for direct long haul air passenger travel. From January 2013, direct flights from Northern Ireland to any destination in Band B were reduced to £0. You can see the rates for Northern Ireland flights and direct flights to Band A destinations in the table below.

Destination Bands and distance from London (miles) Direct flight rates (reduced/ standard/ higher) Indirect flight rates (reduced/ standard/ higher)
From 1 April 2018 From 1 April 2018
Band A (0-2,000) £13 / £26 / £78 £13 / £26 / £78
Band B (Over 2,000) £0 / £0 / £0 £78/ £156 / £468
From 1 April 2017 From 1 April 2017
Band A (0-2,000) £13 / £26 / £78 £13 / £26 / £78
Band B (Over 2,000) £0 / £0 / £0 £75 / £150 / £450

For a complete list of bands and the destinations they relate to, please check the HMRC website.

Connecting flights

When connecting flights are involved, the rate of APD is determined by the original departure airport location. For example, if your flight departs from London, connects to another flight in Paris and continues on to New York, the rate of APD would apply to the entire journey from London to New York.

However, if your flight connections require you to stop over in your connecting location for more than 24 hours, your onward flight will not be counted in the APD calculation. For example, if we use the example above, but you stop over in Paris for more than 24 hours, the rate of APD would be calculated against your flight from London to Paris. You would not need to pay any further APD on your flight from Paris to New York.

Is Air Passenger Duty refundable?

Air Passenger Duty is refundable. However, this is down to the discretion and individual policy of each airline. If you cancel or miss a flight, you can make a claim to get your tax refunded. You may be charged an admin fee when you make your claim. If you are affected by flight disruptions, such as over-bookings, delays or cancellations, you may also be entitled to financial compensation or assistance from the airline.

Who is exempt from Air Passenger Duty?

  • Children under two years of age who do not have their own seat are exempt.
  • From 1 May 2015, children under 12 in the lowest class of travel are not chargeable.
  • From 1 March 2016, children under 16 in the lowest class of travel are not chargeable.
  • Short pleasure flights are exempt, providing they last no more than 60 minutes.
  • Those passing through a UK airport from an international destination to another international or UK destination.

Passengers on flights departing from airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands are also not subject to airport tax. Departure locations include:

  • The Highland Region, Western Isles Islands Area, Orkney Islands Area, Shetland Islands Area, Argyll and Bute District, Arran, Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae
  • In the Moray District, the parishes of Aberlour, Cabrach, Dallas, Dyke, Edinkillie, Forres, Inveravon, Kinloss, Kirkmichael, Knockando, Mortlach, Rafford and Rothes.
This guide aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this guide. All information correct at date of publication 30th January 2018.