British Travelers To The Caribbean Face Further Charges

Even as Caribbean tourism officials try to woo British travelers to the islands despite increased air passenger duties (APD), one of their staunchest allies in opposing the APD has now further compounded the problem.

British Airways announced yesterday that it would be increasing its fuel surcharge on longhaul services from tomorrow, Thursday, December 16 by an additional £10 (US $15.86) per sector, which equals £20 (US $31.71) per sector for a return fare. This now means that return travelers to the Caribbean from the United Kingdom would face an additional minimum surcharge of £126 (US $199.77) or a maximum of £216 (US $342.47), depending on what class of flight they purchased.

The British Airways Press Office stated in its Tuesday release that the move reflected the “substantial” recent increase in the price of oil.

Also on Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that higher fuel costs would be the biggest challenge for airlines in 2011, pointing to the fact that the price of jet fuel was currently 17.6% higher than a year ago and had risen by almost 5% in the past month.

The price of oil has risen steadily from about US$72 a barrel in August to just over US$90 currently and IATA forecast the average oil price in 2011 would be US$84, up from US$79 this year, sparking concerns that other airlines would soon follow suit and raise their surcharges.

However, Caribbean tourism officials might again feel that they are being placed at an unfair disadvantage as British Airways also announced that there would be no fuel surcharge increase to any British Airways’ shorthaul services.

The increased airport passenger duty (APD) implemented by the British government in November, which garnered strong opposition Caribbean lobbying efforts from, was characterized by regional tourism officials as unduly penalizing Caribbean destinations because they faced a higher duty than comparable destinations in the United States due to the way in which distances between destinations were calculated. This saw APD on outbound flights from Britain to the Caribbean triple from £50 (US $79.28) in November 2009 to £150 (US$237.83) from November 1, 2010.

The Caribbean’s lobbying efforts were at the time supported by major British holiday carriers British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. In its mid-year management report British Airways came out strongly against the effects that the increased APD would have on longhauld airfares stating: “Next week there are further increases in APD of up to 55 per cent on some longhaul flights. We already meet our carbon costs twice over even before these increases. Aviation supports more than 500,000 jobs in the UK and provides the transport links that are vital to the success of UK businesses in a globalised economy. Excessive taxation puts aviation’s social and economic benefits at risk.”

According to British Airways, the airline has more direct Caribbean services than any other European airline with 64 weekly flights to 15 destinations. Next summer it plans to increase flights from Gatwick to Barbados and Antigua and between St Lucia and Port of Spain.



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