The Air Travel Advisory Bureau (www.atab.org.uk) is taking up the cause of UK air passengers who have not received refunds, running into millions of pounds, on Air Passenger Duty (APD), on cancelled air tickets.
The APD tax is only paid to the government by the airline if the passenger actually flies but if the passenger doesn’t fly, that money should be refunded in full. Some airlines make the process of getting a refund either difficult or so expensive in “administration charges” that they hope it will put people off applying.
The Consumer Association's magazine Which estimated that Ryanair, as far back as 2003 pocketed in excess of five million pounds, in that year alone, in un-refunded taxes. A spokesman for HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) told ATAB today that they had no way of knowing how much APD was being held back because airlines are not obliged to report how much income was gained from not refunding APD tax. Airlines simply report the withheld taxes as part of their general income. HMRC only requires airlines to report the numbers of departing passengers on flights, and therefore how much APD is due per flight. The HMRC spokesman said, “Air Passenger Duty is only payable to HMRC if the passenger boards their flight. Any passenger who has paid APD for a flight that they do not subsequently take should contact the airline.”
As well as dealing with the APD scandal, ATAB will be fighting for much more transparency in the way airfares are advertised as they believe the airfares quoted by so-called 'budget' airlines are often pure fabrication. A £20 fare can turn into £150 once taxes, luggage, printing a boarding pass, check-in and all the other unavoidable essentials of flying are added in. No other industry is allowed to get away with such blatant exploitation of its customers.
The Air Travel Advisory Bureau (ATAB) was first established in 1982 by Tony White. It was one of the first flight comparison organisations, long before anyone even had access to the Internet. With more than forty years of experience in the travel business, he decided to re-launch ATAB with the aim of informing travellers of their rights, lobbying for a fairer deal for air travellers and demanding transparency in the cost of airline tickets.
“I am amazed that the airline industry has been allowed to sink to its present condition. In the last ten years air travel is the only major form of transportation that has gone backwards.” said Tony White, Chairman of ATAB.
Former MP and government Consumer Minister Nigel Griffiths has joined the ATAB team.
“It is frankly shocking that some airlines are pocketing millions of pounds by keeping to themselves taxes they are simply not entitled to. I have written to the chief executives of all the major airlines asking them to voluntarily refund taxes to passengers who are unable to fly. Otherwise we will campaign to strengthen consumer law to make refunding mandatory.”
Both Tony White and Nigel Griffiths are available for interview. Photos, logos, etc are available on request.
ATAB Feb 3nd 2011, London