New levy on Norwich air passengers
SHAUN LOWTHORPE Airport chiefs are under mounting pressure to introduce a local carbon tax to offset aircraft pollution after hitting air passengers with a new levy to help fund an £18m upgrade.
Norwich International airport is to levy a "terminal tax" to fund an £18m expansion plan, despite its owners resisting moves for a similar levy aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
Omniport, which runs Norwich International, said the £3 airport development fee would be introduced from April 2 and those refusing to pay would not be allowed to board flights.
The move prompted renewed calls for Omniport to introduce a levy to pay for measures to cut aircraft carbon emissions instead of a charge to fund profit-boosting schemes.
Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who tried in vain to persuade the airport to introduce a passenger levy to fund a local carbon offsetting scheme in September 2005, said it was ironic Omniport now backed the idea to pay for its expansion plans.
And he urged the airport to look again at a local carbon tax.
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"Why stick this on the passengers? They seem to be living in a strange world up there," he said.
"Everybody else is talking about carbon emissions but they are not pushing it at all. This seems more about increasing their profits than anything. They are trying to encourage more people to fly, but they don't seem to have any environmental policy whatsoever.
"This will put people off and they will start going to Stansted."
When the airport was privatised in a £11m deal in 2004, supporters stressed it was the best chance of funding as the private sector was best-placed to attract investment.
Around 450,000 passengers flew from Norwich in 2004 and the figure is expected to increase to nearly 800,000 this year.
Richard Jenner, airport managing director, said the levy, to be collected in special vending machines, was needed because growth had been faster than expected since the Omniport takeover.
Under the plans all outbound passengers will pay £3 with a £1 charge for children aged between two and 15 years old. Youngsters under two will travel free.
"We are trying to be transparent," he said. "These funds are going to allow us to get better facilities and extend the number and range of flights. We think the benefits far outweigh an extra £3 overall. This money will all be put back into development at Norwich Airport. Of the £18m between £12 and £13m will still be made up from private investment. This is a very small element."
The tariff will raise £4-6m in the next five years and be handled by the airport's transport services company NCP. Revenues will partly fund work like increasing the number of check-in desks, betters shops, improving the lounge side toilets, developing a new fire service training ground and introducing noise reduction facilities.
Other terminals operating a similar payment method include Ireland West Airport Knock, Kerry and Newquay.
"Without this small charge made to every passenger it simply would not be possible for us to put this level of investment into the airport," Mr Jenner said. "The growth will double the number of jobs created by Norwich International within the next five years as well as providing more choice, better value and greater comfort to passengers."
A survey out yesterday showed more than three quarters of travellers are demanding a carbon offset flight tax to allow for "guilt-free" holidays.
While 94pc of travellers surveyed by lastminute.com disagree with the new Government Flight Tax, 78pc would be prepared to pay twice as much as the new tax if the money went towards offsetting the environmental impact of their flights.