Why are ODA taxes so high for UK airline passengers?

Airline passengers are used to paying taxes and fees that are included in the ticket price. Passengers arriving from UK airports must also pay Air Passenger Tax (APD), resulting in the UK having some of the highest aviation taxes in the world.

What is Air Passenger Tax?

APD is a tax that applies to adult passengers for flights departing from UK airports, with some notable exceptions including airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands region.

Fare depends on travel class and destination, but applies to domestic and international passengers. It works by adding a fee to the price of the flight at the time of booking and is based on the passenger’s final destination. The airline then passes the fee on to the government.


There are two ODA bands. Band A is for flights up to 2,000 miles and Band B is for flights over 2,000 miles. Both bands are calculated using the distance between London and the capital of the destination country.

The UK has some of the highest aviation taxes in the world

Passengers in the UK pay some of the highest aviation taxes in the world. ODA is the main reason for this and it has been steadily increasing since its introduction in 1994. Aviation was the only mode of transport that did not pay fuel tax. The ODA was designed to change this, but as international aviation agreements generally prevented a tax on jet fuel, the ODA was the method chosen by the government to introduce a new tax.

There have been repeated calls to abolish ODA in the UK. As it is charged according to the final destination, UK domestic passengers have to pay twice for a round trip, to cover the outward and return flights.

Only a handful of other European countries have some form of ODA and the UK has the highest fees. Some countries, such as the Republic of Ireland, have even completely abolished the tax. Although others, including Norway, are considering introducing some form of tax.

Passengers traveling from UK airports must pay APD for short-haul and long-haul flights in addition to other taxes and charges. Photo: Getty Images

The future of ODA

The UK government is reforming ODA and reducing domestic fares, but raising fares for long-haul flights. From April 2023, ODA will be halved for domestic flights. The current rate of £13 per flight will be reduced to £6.50 per flight.

The government’s argument is that passengers currently pay more for return flights within the UK than for international flights and that most emissions come from international flights than from domestic flights. A new level of APD for international flights will also be introduced from April 2023. This is for flights over 5,500 miles and the fare will be £91 per passenger.

Critics of the domestic cut believe it goes against the fight against climate change and will encourage more domestic flights. The other side of the argument, including from airlines and airports, is that ODA should be removed as it puts the UK at a competitive disadvantage, reduces demand and has a negative impact on the economy.

The UK government is reforming ODA, but departing passengers will still pay some of the highest aviation taxes in the world. Photo: British Airways

ODA has become an emotional topic for the UK aviation industry. The UK government is now in a difficult position as it tries to appease both sides of the argument. It will have to find a balance between the environmental arguments to increase ODA and the economic arguments to reduce ODA. Many in the industry would like to see it phased out altogether, but as it is a lucrative source of revenue for the government, it seems likely that passengers flying from UK airports will continue to pay for it for the foreseeable future.

About Joan J. Hernandez

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