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Guide to Air Passenger Duty

Everything you need to know

What is Air Passenger Duty?

It’s an excise duty tax that you pay on top of your airfare. It’s included in the total cost of your air travel, so most travellers don’t notice it when booking.

It’s also known as APD, air passenger tax or airport passenger duty.

How does APD work?

APD adds a charge to the price of all passenger flights from UK airports (except in the Scottish Highlands, and for direct long-haul flights departing from Northern Ireland).

How much you pay depends on how far you’re travelling, plus what class of travel you choose. And it applies to domestic flights as well as international travel.

There are two destination bands, A and B. Countries are grouped depending on how far they are from London. The following countries are included in tax band A:

  • All countries in the EU and EEA including Corsica, Gibraltar, Madeira, Sicily, Svalbard, The Azores, The Balearic Islands, The Canary Islands and Western Sahara
  • Non-EU countries: Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia
  • Independent regions: The Channel Islands, Isle of Man
  • Non-EU countries: Albania, Andorra, Switzerland, North Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, Russian Federation (west of the Urals only), Greenland, Faroe Islands, San Marino, Serbia, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Kosovo

Any destination not covered above falls into tax band B.

Air Passenger Duty rates

In addition to the two bands, there are three rates of APD. The rates apply to both bands, based on the class of travel that you book:

  • Reduced rate: Applies to the lowest class of travel on the plane, for seat pitches of less than 1.016 metres (40 inches)
  • Standard rate: Applies to any other class of travel, or where the seat pitch is more than 1.016 metres (40 inches)
  • Higher rate: Applies to travel in planes of 20 tonnes or more that can carry no more than 19 passengers

How much is Air Passenger Duty?

So, how much will APD add to the cost of your trip? We’ve broken it down by band and class for flights starting in the UK:

Rates from 1 April 2020
Destination band Reduced rate Standard rate Highest rate
Band A £13 £26 £78
Band B £80 £176 £528


Rates from 1 April 2021
Destination band Reduced rate Standard rate Highest rate
Band A £13 £26 £78
Band B £82 £180 £541


Correct as at 11/2020, for up to date information please check the link below
Information from HMRC.

What about Northern Ireland?

There’s no APD charged on direct, long-haul (band B) flights from airports in Northern Ireland. Indirect band B flights from Northern Ireland are charged the same APD as band B flights from the rest of the UK. The same goes for all band A flights.

Flying from the Scottish Highlands?

You won’t pay APD on air travel starting from an airport in the Scottish Highlands and Islands region. This includes:

  • 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

Remember, you’ll still be charged APD if you’re flying into the above areas from other UK airports.

How does it affect connecting flights?

A connecting flight offers a chance to sightsee, rest or just enjoy some tax-free shopping. But how does it affect APD?

If you’re stopping somewhere for up to 24 hours to catch a connecting flight, the APD rate is based on your original destination airport. Say you’re flying from London to Paris, then on from there with a connecting flight to New York six hours later. For that trip, APD would apply to the journey as a whole, 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. This is because it’s a UK passenger tax.

So, if you were staying in Paris for more than 24 hours before flying on to New York, you’d only be charged APD from London to Paris. You won’t pay APD on your flight from Paris to New York, as long as you travel in the same class.

Who doesn’t pay APD?

Some passengers don’t need to pay air passenger tax. And as mentioned above, there are parts of the UK where it doesn’t apply. Scenarios where passengers aren’t charged APD include:

  • Children under two, without their own seat (it doesn’t matter what class they travel in)
  • Children who are under 16 on the date of departure, in the lowest class of travel
  • Passengers on a pleasure flight lasting up to 60 minutes from doors closing until they reopen
  • Passengers starting their journey from an airport in the Scottish Highlands and Islands region
  • Passengers leaving from an airport in Northern Ireland on a direct, band B flight
  • Passengers catching a connecting flight in the UK, if the journey started from an airport outside of the UK

Is Air Passenger Duty refundable?

The short answer is yes, but it comes down to each airline’s policy. If you cancel or miss a flight, ask your airline about making a claim to get your tax refunded. And remember; if you’re not able to travel because of flight disruptions, you may be due help or compensation from the airline.

If you want to find out more about air passenger duty, you can read about it in detail at GOV.UK.

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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 decision, financial or otherwise. 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.

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