BY TIM HEDGLEY
FINANCE Minister Sammy Wilson has welcomed the abolishment of Air Passenger Duty on long haul flights from Northern Ireland.
The Final Stage of the Air Passenger Duty Bill was passed in the Assembly this week. This means that Air Passenger Duty on direct long haul flights departing from Northern Ireland airports will be reduced to zero with effect from January 2013.
Welcoming this Sammy Wilson said: “The Executive committed in the Programme for Government to reduce the Air Passenger Duty for direct long haul flights to zero. The legislation passed today delivers on this commitment and is good news for our economy in these challenging financial times.
“Direct airlinks facilitate local firms in doing business with customers outside the region, they are also vital for the local tourism industry and in attracting Foreign Direct Investment to Northern Ireland – both key to growing and rebalancing our economy.
“Abolishing Air Passenger Duty on long haul flights will help to protect and improve our international air access and ensure the competitiveness of our airports. It will enable Northern Ireland to remain an attractive place to do business and I also hope that it will help secure flights to new long haul destinations.”
John Doran, Belfast International Airport’s managing Director said: “Given the increasing differential with regard to direct long haul Air Passenger Duty levels between the UK and Republic of Ireland, and the very specific problems which this caused for Northern Ireland connectivity, we are grateful to the Northern Ireland Executive and HM Treasury that decisive action has been taken.
“As the International Airport we now look forward with renewed vigour to building upon the success of our direct US air links, as well as reaching out into key additional long haul markets in Canada and the eastern hemisphere, in partnership with the investment and tourism authorities.”
The Finance Minister concluded: “The Executive’s determination and success in pressing for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty on direct long haul flights from Northern Ireland provides a strong example of how the Executive and the Assembly are taking positive steps to support economic growth in Northern Ireland.”