Teething troubles with airport tax

Temperamental was the word yesterday at Norwich International AirportIt applied in equal part to the technology brought in to deal with the new flight tax and to some grumpy passengers who felt angered at having to fork out an extra £3 to fund part of an £18m airport expansion plan.

Temperamental was the word yesterday at Norwich International Airport

It applied in equal part to the technology brought in to deal with the new flight tax and to some grumpy passengers who felt angered at having to fork out an extra £3 to fund part of an £18m airport expansion plan.

Teething problems with tickets machines matched passengers reluctantly paying through gritted teeth.

But there was no widespread protest and not everybody baulked at the airport development fee surcharge, which was introduced yesterday .

There were even some supporters of the £3 levy among travellers heading off for an Easter break in the sun.

Mike Rusted, from Thorpe St Andrew near Norwich, said: “I am quite happy with it. If it means paying the charge to help keep Norwich airport competitive against the likes of Gatwick, then I do not have a problem paying it.

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“It would cost me £100 with parking and travel if I was to go to another airport.”

Mr Rusted, who was bound for Alicante, added: “Norwich is a good airport and I would not want to lose it.”

The surcharge, for departing passengers, was announced almost three weeks ago by owners Omniport which wants to expand the airport.

Each departing passenger must pay the £3, or they will not be allowed to board their flight. It is payable at a small desk either before or after checking in, with pink tickets issued that are supposedly read by an automated barrier gate that leads into the departure lounge.

But yesterday , not all was going smoothly as gates jammed and some tickets were not readable by the sensors. However, with an attendant at hand, passengers did move through smoothly, though some expressed their disapproval.

Under the scheme, adults pay the full charge while children aged 2-15 pay £1 and infants go free.

Omniport has announced that any passenger booking before March 12 will be refunded the charge - though they will still have to pay on departure and apply for the refund in writing.

But as Colin Binfield from Loddon, who was travelling to Alicante with his wife Sharon, remarked: “It does make you wonder just how many people will bother to claim that refund when they get back home.

“I do not support the tax, why should we have to pay for the extension and also line the pockets of the directors of Omniport. I think it is totally wrong.”

But taxi driver Bob Webb from Brundall believes it is a business decision made by the owners and people have the choice of whether to fly from Norwich or not.

Mr Webb, who was travelling with his wife Lind and grand-daughter Courtney, 13, said: “It is no different to putting the price of a ticket up, it is just that the owners have told us about it.

“I am in favour of it, it is still cheaper to fly from here than go to Stansted.”

Yet some airline operators are not happy. Budget airline Flybe has protested to the owners and First Choice has protested to the Civil Aviation Authority over the decision.

Yesterday the airport's head of marketing Louise Wilkinson said the introduction of the charge had generally gone smoothly.

“Most people seem to have been aware of the charge through media coverage,” she added.