Bristol Airport welcomes opportunity to make case against Air Passenger Duty being devolved to Wales

Chief executive of Bristol Airport Robert Sinclair claims that devolving APD to Wales would have a damaging impact

Bristol Airport has welcomed the opportunity to present further evidence on what it claims would be the “detrimental effects” of devolving Air Passenger Duty (APD) to Wales as part of a review of potential options to mitigate the impact on regional airports.

Today’s publication outlining new powers for Wales from the UK Government says that the next Westminster government will consider the case and options for devolving APD to Wales.

It adds: “In advance of this, there will be a review of potential options to mitigate the impacts of APD devolution on regional airports. As part of this review, a discussion paper will be published by the summer examining the devolution and variation of APD rates within England, and the provision of aid for regional airports including Bristol Airport

Should Wales have devolved Air Passenger Duty powers?

Chief executive of Bristol Airport, Rob Sinclair, said: “We welcome this commitment to properly consider the implications of APD devolution on regional airports in England including options for variation of rates within England to assist regional airports such as Bristol.

“We are confident that the Government will reach the right conclusion when all the evidence is considered ensuring that regional airports are not disadvantaged by APD devolution and can play their full part in helping to rebalance the economy.

“Without similar measures for regional airports in England, devolution of APD to Wales would contradict the principle that there should be no detriment to other parts of the UK.

UK airport passenger numbers

HeathrowGatwickManchesterStanstedLutonEdinburghBirminghamGlasgowBristolCardiffAirport01020304050607080Passengers in millions

“It would simply result in the redistribution of passengers from Bristol and other English airports to Cardiff, but with no benefit to UK plc, severely distorting the open and competitive market for air travel which currently delivers choice and value for passengers.

Chief executive of Bristol Airport Robert Sinclair

“By not rushing into this decision on APD, the Government now has the opportunity to fully consider the significant cross-border implications that devolution of this tax would create and put in place a framework that could benefit all regions of the UK.

“We are confident that after the proper process has been followed a fair solution will be found, ending uncertainty and ensuring Bristol Airport can continue to enhance its facilities for the benefit of passengers and businesses on both sides of the border.”

Coach boost

Bristol has also confirmed has that coach operator National Express will commence a 12-times daily coach service between Bristol Airport and Cardiff next month

Bristol Airport served 6.3m passengers in 2014, including more than one million flying to or from Wales.

Sourced from walesonline


CityJet chief executive quits following refinancing

The boss of Dublin-based CityJet, Christine Ourmières, has stepped down just over a month after the carrier completed a refinancing.

The reasons for chief executive Ourmières’s abrupt departure remain unclear, with no one from CityJet available for comment.

CityJet announced the sale and leaseback of seven Avro RJ85 aircraft in January and said its restructuring plans were progressing ahead of schedule as trading conditions improved.

Ourmières had run CityJet since 2010 following a lengthy period at Air France. CityJet was a franchise carrier for Air France-KLM at the time.

The airline was acquired by the Intro Aviation group in May last year and run alongside Dutch-based carrier VLM.

CityJet said Ourmières had overseen “the organisation positively reshaped, with strong shareholders, improved financial position with a new board and management team in place”.

The airline said last month that restructuring was necessary due to its legacy of having been part of the Air France group which left it with an infrastructure which was “inappropriate” for a independent regional carrier.

CityJet runs a network of services from London City airport.

Announcing the completion of refinancing last month, Ourmières said: “Recent months have shown the determination of our management team and staff to embrace the challenge of reshaping the business to become an independent airline.

“We can now focus on delivering our customers a superior product and service which will support our improving trading performance.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Court rules airlines cannot delay compensation payments

Court rules airlines cannot delay compensation paymentsImage via Shutterstock

Five airlines have been told they cannot postpone giving compensation payments to passengers whose flights have been delayed by technical problems.

Jet2, Thomas Cook, Ryanair, Flybe, and Wizz Air had wanted Liverpool County Court to stay, or delay, one woman’s claim over a delayed Jet2 flight, while a Dutch case on the same issue was heard in the European Court of Justice.

But the judge rejected this saying: “a line should now been drawn. Justice delayed is justice denied.’

Lawyers for passenger Kim Allen from Lancashire claimed the ruling could benefit tens of thousands of consumers with delay compensation claims.

Allen is claiming €400 in compensation after a delay flying from Manchester to Malaga in March 2012.

Her Jet2 flight was delayed by almost seven hours due to a technical problem, a flap slat fault, which occurred just prior to take off.

Allen’s case was originally stayed pending last year’s Huzar v Jet2 case in which Court of Appeal judges ruled that technical problems are not an extraordinary circumstance under EU Regulation 261/2004.

The stay on her case was initially lifted after Huzar’s victory but Jet2 soon made an application to stay Allen’s claim yet again.

The airline wanted to put the case on hold pending the outcome of the Dutch case, which has been referred to the European Court of Justice.

The van der Lans case will mainly look at whether a technical problem that arises spontaneously – as opposed to one which is detected during routine maintenance – is an extraordinary circumstance under EU Regulation 261/2004.

Extraordinary circumstances are the airline’s only defence to paying out flight delay compensation.

Kevin Clarke, flight delay lawyer at Bott & Co Solicitors who represented Allen, said:

“We’re delighted that once again the court has rebuffed the airline’s attempts to continue delaying legitimate passenger claims.

“Bott & Co alone have over 8,000 clients with claims against the five airlines who had requested stays similar to that in Ms Allen’s case.

“We’ve seen continual legal challenges to the finer details of flight delay regulation by the airlines since it was first introduced and it’s pleasing the court is now taking a firm line against them.

“We would hope that the airlines will now finally face up to their obligations to passengers and to settle the hundreds of thousands of legitimate claims outstanding.

“Sadly the history of their conduct over the last decade would tell us to expect yet another legal challenge.”

A spokesman for Jet2 said: “As Jet2.com has only just received the judgment the company is currently considering its position.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Flight delay ruling opens way for compensation payments

Passengers waiting at Gatwick airport

A county court judge has ruled that airline Jet2.com cannot delay the payment of compensation due to passengers for delayed flights.

The ruling could set a precedent that affects thousands of passengers with similar claims in the UK.

Jet2 argued the compensation payments should be delayed pending the outcome of a similar case in the Netherlands.

But the judge at Liverpool County Court ruled that “a line should now be drawn. Justice delayed is justice denied”.

The EU has ruled that airlines must pay compensation for delayed flights, but a number of airlines have yet to pay out.

Five airlines in the UK have made applications to delay payments: Jet2, Thomas Cook, Ryanair, FlyBe and WizzAir.

‘Kept waiting’

The Jet2 case heard in Liverpool involved Kim Allen, who claimed €400 (£292) compensation after an almost seven-hour delay when flying from Manchester to Malaga in 2012.

“We’ve all been kept waiting for so long, but I’m really happy with today’s decision,” she said after the judge’s ruling.

“Hopefully now it’s time for the airlines to pay us what the law says they should.”

Her solicitor, Kevin Clarke from Bott & Co, said he hoped “the airlines will now finally face up to their obligations to passengers and to settle the hundreds of thousands of legitimate claims outstanding.

“Sadly, the history of their conduct over the last decade would tell us to expect yet another legal challenge.”

Disproportionate

The issue stems from the 2004 European regulations that oblige airlines, in some cases, to pay compensation to passengers for cancellations and delays, if they are not due to extraordinary circumstances.

A further ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2009 confirmed that delayed passengers should be treated as if their flights had been cancelled, if the delay was longer than three hours, entitling them to cash compensation.

Despite the ruling, a number of airlines in the UK are still arguing that some technical problems should be classified as extraordinary circumstances, and as such, no compensation should be due.

They have also argued that paying compensation for delays of three hours or more is disproportionate and too great a burden.

Sourced from BBC News


Upturn in summer bookings gathers pace

Upturn in summer bookings gathers paceImage via Shutterstock

Summer 2015 bookings continue to outpace sales a year ago, according to industry analyst GfK.

Year-on-year bookings for the week to February 14 were 7% up, while the previous week they were 3% higher. Summer 2015 sales for the season to date remained 3% up year-on-year to the end of last week.

The upturn began in mid-January following a slow start to 2015. GfK reported a 4% rise in year-on-year bookings in the final week of the month following a 2% increase the preceding week. This compared with year-on-year declines of 4% and 1% in the first two weeks of 2015.

Year-on-year package bookings in the week to February 14 were up 8% and family bookings up 14%. Bookings to eurozone countries also rose 8%, with a £3 increase in the average selling price despite the fall in the euro’s value.

The improvement follows a 4% rise in the number of outbound holidays from Britain last year. Recent Office for National Statistics figures showed holiday departures in 2014 hit 39 million for the first time since 2008.

Travel Designers director Nick Harding revealed he had scaled back marketing on Google and Facebook, saying: “I wondered whether we would cope. We’re cutting back on marketing so we can reduce the number of enquiries. There is only so much we can do.”

Advantage Travel Partnership commercial head John Sullivan said: “The market seems to have gathered momentum.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Irish government demands more commitments from IAG

Irish government demands more commitments from IAGThe Irish government has demanded further commitments from International Airlines Group before backing its proposed £1 billion takeover bid for Aer Lingus.

Transport minister Paschal Donohoe said that Dublin needed further clarity on potential job losses and stronger commitments on protecting flight frequencies between Ireland and Heathrow.

The government owns 25% of the carrier from its days of state ownership.

Donohoe said in a statement on the day that Aer Lingus issued its annual results: “The information and commitments that have been provided to date do not at present provide a basis on which the government could give an irrevocable commitment to accept an offer to dispose of its shares.”

IAG has said that it would provide a legally binding permanent commitment not to sell Aer Lingus’s existing landing slots at Heathrow without approval. It has also guaranteed to continue operating Aer Lingus’s existing routes between Heathrow and Ireland for five years.

But Donohoe said a guarantee that Aer Lingus would keep its Heathrow slots needs to be for longer than five years.

He said the information and commitments provided to date by IAG did not provide a basis on which the government could accept the offer.

The minister said the government noted that IAG and Aer Lingus have made positive statements about the overall employment prospects, and the airline itself saw the potential for planned growth in transatlantic traffic to be significantly accelerated.

Donohoe said IAG had provided important new information outlining its vision for the airline but he was still not in a position to recommend acceptance of its offer.

He also said progress had been made on guaranteeing jobs, but further clarity was needed.

More information was also needed on IAG’s transatlantic plans, but Donohue conceded that Aer Lingus was satisfied with the level of the cash offer from the company.

However, Donohoe left the door open for further negotiation, saying that the government would consider “any improved proposal which IAG may bring”.

Incoming Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh said that between the existing voluntary redundancy programme and a merger with IAG it could result in 150 to 200 job losses.

He said there would be redeployment opportunities in Aer Lingus and in IAG, confirming a takeover could lead to about 500 new jobs, RTE News in Ireland reported.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Cardiff airport could compete with Bristol for long-haul flights, according to major report on devolution’s impact on the West of England

The IPPR report explores the impact of a ‘stronger’ Wales across the border

A plane takes off from Cardiff Airport; falling air fares have helped drive the drop in inflation

A plane takes off from Cardiff Airport, which is now owned by the Welsh Government

The potential impact of a stronger Wales on the West Of England has been “neglected” and should be investigated, according to a major report which sets out the powers the Assembly could gain in the near future.

The IPPR think tank’s report states that the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD) could have “considerable” consequences for Bristol’s airport.

It also flags up key differences between the Wales-England border and the one dividing Scotland and England.

This report, Borderland West: Assessing the Implications of a Stronger Wales for the West of England, comes days before the Wales Office is expected to put forward proposals for the next wave of Welsh devolution.

The report, whose authors include devolution experts Alan Trench and Guy Lodge, states: “Ninety per cent of the Welsh population lives within 50 miles of the English border, and there is a huge amount of connectivity, with 138 million journeys taken between the two countries each year. Whereas Edinburgh and Newcastle are 120 miles apart, and a car journey of two and a half hours, Cardiff and Bristol are just 44 miles apart and under an hour away by road.”

Warning of the impact on Bristol’s airport of devolving APD, it states: “One often-cited fear of increased devolution is the worry that devolving air passenger duty to the Welsh government could damage prospects for international connections from Bristol. Due to the proximity of Cardiff airport, it would be relatively easy for passengers to take their business across the border if it were worth the time and cost of additional connecting travel to do so.”

Arguing that Cardiff could compete for long-haul traffic, the authors write: “Cardiff airport is already in a better position than Bristol in this regard, having a runway that can accommodate Boeing 747s and other large aircraft for maintenance and a number of seasonal long-haul charter flights to the Caribbean. The question of whether Cardiff can attract carriers for scheduled long-haul routes will depend on a number of factors, and no doubt a reduction in APD would make it more attractive…

“Approximately one-fifth of the 6.2 million passengers per annum using Bristol airport have an origin or destination in Wales, further underlining the porous nature of the border between England and Wales. With just 94km between the two airports, there is a significant overlap in catchment areas which makes this highly competitive market particularly sensitive to price differences.”

However, the report notes: “A further issue would arise with the status of Cardiff airport, now that it has been acquired by the Welsh Government. Since Cardiff airport is the only substantial airport in Wales, any use of tax levers which advantaged it would have to satisfy EU rules regarding state aids and ‘state monopolies of a commercial character’ – issues of which the management of Bristol airport are clearly already well aware.”

The authors only expect tax competition from Wales to affect the West of England “to a limited extent”.

Exploring the potential impact of income tax devolution, they write: “Given the extent to which there is a shared labour market between the west of England and south-eastern Wales, devolution of income tax creates scope for a noticeable effect. Depending on the tax decisions made by the National Assembly, there may be an attraction for some workers to live on the Welsh rather than English side of the border, even if they continue to work in England.

“But the amount of such an incentive is small – at most, around £318 per year for workers on the basic rate of income tax, if income tax rates were 1p less in Wales than in England. Moreover, [the] number of workers commuting from Wales even to Bristol is about 10% of the total workforce in the city (and less to the neighbouring local authority areas).

“Such a modest incentive is likely to have a limited impact, even in the medium term – and even if it did, would not affect the resources or labour market in the Bristol area (as workers might move homes but keep a higher-paying job around Bristol). In only a small number of cases would the amount of tax saved or other benefits (such as reduced commuting time) compensate for lower pay levels in Wales.”

Playing down the impact of the devolution of land and property taxes, they state: “[If] price were a significant factor in driving economic competition between the two places, Wales already has considerable advantages when it comes to office space and residential property.”

They note that Wales receives public spending worth £9,740 per head compared to the South West’s £8,171.

Highlighting the lack of financial powers at Bristol’s disposal, they state: “The tools by which Bristol and the west of England are able to determine their own economic future remain highly constrained… Bristol retains little of its own tax base or benefits from growth, and has precious few levers to pull to facilitate economic development free from the restrictive hand of Whitehall.”

Sourced from walesonline


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