Greenpeace has condemned Boris Johnson’s plans to ditch taxes on short-distance domestic flights after pledging to help the environment.
A review today reveals No 10 is considering cutting Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights under plans to boost connectivity within the UK.
Johnson said he wanted to “build back better” after the coronavirus crisis in a way that brings “every corner of the UK closer together”.
This comes as aviation companies request more government assistance to preserve thousands of jobs at risk due to the pandemic. They also complain the duty is levied twice on domestic flights – on both departure and arrival.
But Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “After the fuel duty freeze and rail fare rises, cutting duty on domestic flights would continue our nonsensical trend of the higher the carbon, the lower the tax.
“Next they will tell us we need airport expansion and new runways to accommodate all the aviation demand that has emerged.
“The government needs to face up to the unavoidable reality that the aviation industry has to be smaller than it was before the pandemic.”
Sarah Olney, Lib Dem transport spokeswoman, added: “Britain will be laughed at on the world stage if we decide to hike rail fares then cut the cost of UK air travel in the same month.
“At a time when other countries are encouraging more people to take trains, Britain’s strategy will be the complete opposite. We will be the odd one out at our very own COP26 summit.”
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said that cutting domestic flight duty “flies in the face of the government’s climate commitments”.
General secretary Manuel Cortes urged the government to invest in “truly green public transport”, such as rail, which is the “most effective intercity connection taking people to the heart of our towns and cities”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps today defended the plan, insisting Air Passenger Duty “was never designed as a carbon tax”. He insisted other measures would tackle the climate crisis.
The prime minister will launch a consultation this spring on reforming air passenger duty.