UK airports are expecting passenger numbers to drop if the next rise in air passenger duty (APD) goes ahead.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to confirm the latest increase in the duty for 2013/14 during his autumn statement on Wednesday.
But a survey of 26 UK airports, carried out by the Airport Operators Association, has found that 25 per cent expect passenger numbers to fall by more than 5 per cent because of APD, while another 25 per cent said they were predicting a 2-5 per cent reduction in passengers.
The study also found that 73 per cent of airports were “very worried” by the latest increase in APD, and 83 per cent said “current levels of APD are having an impact on whether airlines choose to fly from our airport”.
All 26 airports backed calls for a freeze in APD until the Treasury has conducted a review into the impact of the tax. MPs in the House of Commons also voted last month for an APD review although this is not binding on the government.
Darren Caplan, CEO of the Airport Operators Association, said: “It is clear that UK airports are already under pressure from the eye-watering levels of air passenger taxes their customers have to pay, the highest in the world by far.
“The chancellor should immediately stop any planned APD increases and get the Treasury to conduct an economic impact-assessment, to establish the scale of the damage that this tax is having not just on airports but on the whole of the UK economy.”
The AOA has been one of the leading members of the Fair Tax on Flying alliance of travel companies and organisations that has been lobbying MPs and the government for a change in its policy towards aviation taxation.
Nick Barton, managing director of Stansted, added: “The UK is now only one of six European countries still imposing this tax and we charge twice the amount of the next most expensive country, Germany.
“Instead of increasing APD, government needs to understand the damage this is doing to UK Plc, freeze the rate immediately and conduct an economic impact assessment.”