Budget airline easyJet said it would expect to increase its flights to and from Scotland by around 30% if the Scottish Government cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50% in 2018.
Powers to replace UK APD are due to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Bill, following the recommendations of the Smith Commission.
The Scottish Government has committed to “reducing the overall burden of APD by 50%, with the reduction beginning in April 2018 and delivered in full by the end of the next Parliament.”
And the APD tax will be abolished entirely when resources allow, The Scottish Government said.
A 12-week consultation has just been launched by the Scottish Government seeking views “on how the reduction should be structured and how the tax should be operated to help boost Scotland’s international connectivity and economic competitiveness.”
Sophie Dekkers, easyJet’s UK Director, said: “If there is a 50% cut in 2018 we would expect to increase our flights to and from Scotland by around 30%,”
“easyJet is proud to be Scotland’s largest airline and this would mean the current 5.5 million passengers we carry each year could increase to over 7 million.
“This would deliver more services and routes for passengers in Scotland, including to European cities without a current direction connection, as well as the economic benefits of a larger easyJet operation in Scotland.”
Dekkers said easyJet has long campaigned for the removal of Air Passenger Duty. She said APD’s impact is most keenly felt in Scotland, where passengers flying to and from other parts of the UK pay £13 on each flight.
“We strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to halve the tax for passengers,” added Dekkers.
“They have rightly recognised that cutting the tax will boost tourism, investment and business activity in Scotland.
“Research by PwC has shown that abolishing APD would have a positive effect on jobs and growth, as well as public finances in the longer term.
“So it is important that the cut takes effect in full in 2018, so that the benefits for Scotland are felt as quickly as possible.
“To achieve a step change in connectivity for Scotland, by airlines adding new destinations and extra flights, there also needs to be a step change in the taxation.
“A single 50% cut is the way to deliver this. Too small a change risks not attracting the extra aircraft and new routes to Scotland.”