Helicopter Ticket Could Cost £400 Under New Government Air Tax

A return helicopter ticket could soon cost over £400, unless Government plans for passenger duty are stopped, Councillors have heard.

The Chairman of our Council, Mike Hicks, has written to the Treasury, asking for British International Helicopters to be made exempt from a new form of air passenger duty.

The new fuel surcharge was announced in March by the Chancellor, who is hoping to gain extra tax money from private aircraft operators, especially businessman, by adding a fixed fee for each journey.

BIH uses Sikorsky 61s, which will be eligible for a charge for each leg of the journey, unlike Skybus planes, which are under the weight where the new rule would kick in.

The plan will reclassify the helicopters as private jets and they’ll attract around a 275% hike in charges.

On paper, the Government would make between £7m and £9.5m additional income if it were implemented here but it’s unlikely the helicopter service would survive and be able to pay that amount if this form of APD was brought in.

Councillor Hicks and the Town Hall’s Economic Development team have explained to Whitehall how the duty, if introduced here, would work against the Government’s objectives.

It would not help commercial competition, as the helicopters would cease operation leaving just one service.

Their submission also points out that there were 56 days over the last year when the planes couldn’t fly but the helicopters were in the air. British International Helicopters lost only two full days due to technical downtime.

That point stresses the lifeline nature of the service for locals, visitors and business-critical deliveries. 48% of people who flew to the islands last year, that’s nearly 58,000 passengers, used British International Helicopters.

The Penzance to St Marys and Tresco routes are the only passenger rotary services in the country and that is also giving councillors some hope we’ll obtain special dispensation.

The letter says BIH have already had to increase average return fares by up to 80% between 1999 and 2009 because of higher fuels costs, increased landing fees and falling visitor numbers.

There’ll be no ministerial decision until October, Councillors have heard.


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