Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

UK Doubles Its Already High Departure Tax &
American Airlines Makes Us Pay; Emirates Doesn't

So how about those Brits, huh? Guess they have decided to finance their entire public transport system by sticking it to any of us who fly there and then have the audacity to leave. Here's the gist of it:

Starting today (2-01-07), passengers leaving British airports must pay a new higher rate of air tax which is DOUBLE THE OLD TAX. No pay; no fly.

People like me who bought tickets to, or connecting through, the U.K. before the tax increase was announced in December and are flying after February 1 must pay the new rate.

British government officials admit the extra money will pay for public transport and environmental measures and that it will not directly benefit the flying public.

The levy doubles to 10 pounds (not quite US$20) for short-haul economy flights and 40 pounds (almost US$79) for long-haul economy.

The tax is even higher for Business and First Class tickets: 20 pounds (just under US$39) for flights in Europe and a whopping 80 pounds (about US$158) for long-haul flights, including to the USA.

One English government spokesman said: "It is airlines and travel companies - not passengers - who are liable."

That may be, but American Airlines has decided that I and my family, who are flying in Business Class to and from London Gatwick this spring, must pony up an extra $320 (total), or we won't be allowed to fly. Here's what their email to me said in part:

"Customers who purchased tickets prior to December 12, 2006, will need to pay the extra tax at the U.K. airport when checking in for their flight. Payment can be made by credit card or cash. American greatly regrets the inconvenience that this retroactive tax will cause our customers."

Regrets the inconvenience? Don't give me that insincere crap, AA. You could have absorbed it for your Premium Cabin customers, especially those of us who are Executive Platinums. We are supposedly your best customers, remember? Instead, you let us get a peek behind your facade to see how you REALLY feel about us: To you, we are just goats to be milked on a regular basis.

Now contrast AA's approach with the following email from Emirates, on whose flights we are traveling on beyond London in First Class:

"We wanted to advise you that the British government has announced an increase in its air passenger tax, effective February 1, 2007. Emirates Air will cover the increase and does not intend to pass any additional fee along to passengers."

British Airways has also announced that it will not make affected ticketholders pay the extra tax.

I figure I will be able to pay American back for extracting that $320 from me by giving some of my business to other carriers. If I book just one or two additional flights this year on Delta, Northwest, or Continental instead of AA, that should do it. I flew far more AA segments in 2006 than required to re-qualify for Executive Platinum, so selectively booking a few flights away from AA in 2007 won't threaten my 2008 status with them. I won't forget how American Airlines decided to handle the tax.

And I won't forget, either, that Emirates chose to take the high road. We have been looking forward to our first flying experience on Emirates, whose fine service in First and Business is said to be approaching that of Singapore. The fact that Emirates is absorbing the new tax shows the kind of class we all long for.


Blogger Cyclone said...

I don't agree with your stance on American collecting the increased tax from you. American had nothing to do with the tax (this isn't another take on "fuel surcharges"), and certainly doesn't seem to be in a financial position to easily absorb what I presume could be millions in retroactive taxes due. Your anger should be with the UK ministry fore soaking air travelers with a tax unrelated to the good being taxed, not American. Show your distaste by booking via AMS, FRA, or CDG rather than LHR or LGT.

2/05/2007 1:45 PM  
Blogger Verb said...

I have to agree with you. I live in England and althought this has been dresed up as and "Environmental" tax, it's basically just a money grab. If there were meant to be any deterrent to it then it would have had a start date sometime in the future. That way, if you chose to book you would know about the tax. I booked four flights to Canada for my familys holiday long before anyone knew about this rip off. It's going to cost me and ADDITIONAL £160 (say $320 - give or take) just for Gordon Browns coffers. And B.A. are insisting on it being paid. Be glad you live somewhere else! Just imagine - we live with this sort of daylight robbery all the time!

2/06/2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To Cyclone: You make a good point about booking away from London. Both Gatwick and Heathrow have become a pain under the best of circumstances, and the tax just adds one more good reason not to fly through them.

Regarding AA absorbing the charges, my point was that for Business and First Class passengers the margins are fat, and AA could well afford to pay the extra tax, especially for long-term, high volume Executive Platinum customers.

2/06/2007 3:23 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To verb: The tax sure isn't very visitor- or business-friendly, especially considering the extremely high cost of public & private transport these days in the U.K. Just getting between LHR or LGW and London has become quite expensive in and of itself, and now this tax! Apparently, little consideration was given to its potential effect on tourism and business travel.

2/06/2007 3:44 PM  

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