UK Air Passenger Duty (UK APD) – How it Applies to UK Business Aviation

PT 5 M minute read

The UK government extended the Air Passenger Duty (APD) to General Aviation (GA) on April 1, 2013. The good news is that 3rd-party providers, and the industry as a whole, have worked with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to find solutions and clarify the processes for operators.

The information below is an overview of what’s currently slated for implementation. Changes to these regulations are expected, and updates will be provided as soon as new information is received and confirmed.

1. Understanding UK APD

The European Union (EU) introduced legislation in 2010 to include business aircraft operators in EU APD collection. The 2011 budget extends APD to business aircraft for the first time. The purpose of this inclusion is to support the EU’s objective of a standardized tax system for business aircraft operators. While some EU countries had already been collecting APD on GA flights, the UK has delayed collection of APD until April 1, 2013. The amount of APD collected varies by country, aircraft weight and length of flight leg. This duty applies only to passengers, and not to crew. Also, this is a tax applicable to departing passengers, and payment may be done on a per-flight, semi-annual or annual basis depending on the circumstances. The important thing to note is that this affects business aviation as a whole, both charter (non-scheduled commercial) and private non-revenue.

2. Know the regulatory basis for APD in the UK

Legislation setting out what aircraft are considered to be chargeable for the purposes of APD is contained in Section 29 of the UK Finance Act of 1994. Section 30 sets out applicable rates for distance flown (grouped by “bands” [See table below.]), Section 31 sets out which passengers are considered to be exempt from APD, and Section 43(1) defines who is a passenger.

3. Some operations are exempt from UK APD

UK APD exemptions exist for emergency, training, military, humanitarian, search-and-rescue and air ambulance flights. Diplomatic flights must pay the duty, but it may be reclaimed from the Foreign and Commonwealth office by the appropriate government in the same manner as for any reclamation of duties and taxes. Also, aircraft that are operating as Head of State will be exempt, but you must indicate the type of flight in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) portion of the flight plan. UK APD does not apply to cargo flights. There’s a general exemption for aircraft under 5.7 metric tons (12,500 lbs.) Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW), as well as for passengers in transit. It’s best to confirm exemptions, as they may or may not apply in your particular case, with your 3rd-party provider. UK APD is also exempt in the case of tech stops (no passengers disembarking or embarking).

4. Be aware of premium APD rates in UK

The majority of passengers flying aboard business aircraft pay APD at the same rates as passengers aboard commercial flights. The UK, however, has introduced new premium rates of APD for passengers on flights using aircraft of 20,001 metric tons (44,094 lbs.) or more with fewer than 19 seats. Flights in this category pay APD at double the prevailing standard business/first-class APD rate. The following is the rate schedule provided by the HMRC in a briefing:

  • Bands: Each band is the approximate mileage from the UK.
  • Reduced rate: Applies where the passengers are carried in the lowest class of travel on any flight, unless the seat pitch exceeds 1.016 meters (40 inches). In that case, whether there is one or more than one class of travel, the standard rates apply.
  • Standard rate: Applies where passengers are carried in any class of travel other than the lowest or where the seat pitch exceeds 1.016 meters (40 inches), unless the conditions for the higher rate below are met.
  • Higher rate: Applies if passengers are carried on aircraft with an authorized takeoff weight of 20,001 kg or more and equipped to carry fewer than 19 passengers.

Note: For a list of the bands, please download the PDF from HMRC’s Website. In the PDF itself, the band information is on pages 43-52.

5. Know how UK APD will impact your specific operations

APD for the UK is based on MTOW and distance flown and seat pitch. The two MTOW categories are 5,700-20,000 kg and 20,001 kg and above.

For example, if you’re flying a 0-2000-miles Band A, APD will be £13 per passenger for the lower-weight category, assuming the aircraft has fewer than 19 seats and the seat pitch doesn’t exceed 40 inches (in which case the standard rate applies), and £78 per passenger for aircraft over 20,001 kg and equipped with fewer than 19 passenger seats.

When calculating the fees due for a flight, it’s important to note that calculations aren’t necessarily based on your actual destination. Mileage is only calculated from the UK to the appropriate country’s capital city. See examples below:

Example 1: UK APD flight calculation – UK to KLAX
Flight: UK to Los Angeles Intl (KLAX)

  • A/C type: Falcon 50-38,000 lbs. (17,236 kg) MTOW
  • Number of passengers: 3 (seat pitch 40 inch or less)

The following duty calculation is based on the flight information and Table 1, above:

  • Because this aircraft is below 20,000 kg MTOW, it falls into the Reduced Rate Column.
  • According to “Appendix 1 – Destinations by Band” in Notice 550, this flight falls into Band B (U.S.; Washington, D.C.)
  • Duty paid at reduced-rate Band B: £75 per person
  • Total duty to collect: £225

The mileage here is calculated only from the UK to Washington, D.C., and not to destination KLAX. The U.S. is in Band B, and you are only liable for the mileage from the UK to Washington, D.C. For a Falcon 50, its weight falls in the “Reduced rate” category, so the duty needed to be collected for three passengers on that leg is £225, or £75 per passenger.

Example 2: UK APD flight calculation – UK to UUDD
Flight: UK to Domodedovo, Moscow (UUDD)

  • A/C type: Falcon 50-38,000 lbs. (17,236 kg) MTOW
  • Number of passengers: 3 (seat pitch 40 inch or less)

The following duty calculation is based on the flight information and Table 1, above:

  • Because this aircraft is below 20,000 kg MTOW, it falls into the Reduced Rate column.
  • According to “Appendix 1 – Destinations by Band” in Notice 550, this flight falls into Band A (Russia, Moscow)
  • Duty paid at reduced rate Band A: £13 per person
  • Total duty to collect: £39

6. APD adds cost to operations

Extension of APD to GA flights for aircraft above 5.7 metric tons MTOW is estimated to bring an additional 50,000 flights annually within the APD scope. Between 5 and 10 % of these flights are expected to be captured by the new premium tax rate.

7. Understand how this duty is paid

APD is calculated based on departures of applicable flights. It’s not an arrival tax. In some cases, your ground handler may be able to pay APD due. The UK APD collection is governed by the HMRC, and payments should be made to them. The HMRC website contains information on APD regulations. While payment procedures are not yet fully established, APD may be collectable as a per-flight, semi-annual or annual charge based on average passenger loads. In order to qualify for the annual accounting scheme, the operator must have UK APD annual revenue of less than £500,000. There is a special accounting scheme option that allows operators to average the number of passengers carried.

Also, for infrequent flyers, the HMRC has looked at options that will make the process easier. They have developed an “occasional operator’s scheme.” In order to qualify for this option, you will need to have 12 or fewer flights per year and an APD liability of £5,000 or less.

8. What is the next step

As an operator, you are responsible for registering with the HMRC. The operator is financially liable, so appropriate payments need to be levied based on the regulation. Also, when you register for this, you must have a UK representative. 3rd-party providers are seeking more clarity on the different options available that will assist operators in these new changes.


If you’re an operator traveling to the UK, you must register with HMRC unless you qualify for the occasional operator’s scheme, in which case registration is not necessary, and you will need to account for and pay APD for each passenger departing the UK beginning April 1, 2013. Operators are financially liable for payment of APD to the HMRC. Other options for payment are still unknown at this time, and updates will be made as more information is released.

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