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Legal action launched over air passenger duty

Tour operators have launched "substantial" legal action over the government's air passenger duty (APD), claiming that the levy breaches international aviation agreements.APD, which ranges between £10 for European economy flights to £80 for business class long-haul flights, was doubled earlier this month following an announcement made in the chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-Budget report last December.And the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) says that it is this doubling that prompted them to formally challenge the legality of the tax.If the federation succeeds in its action not only will the government be forced to withdraw APD but also compensate airlines and customers for the £2 billion collected since 2004.According to the FTO, APD is incompatible with the 1994 Chicago convention on international civil aviation, as well as the human rights act.FTO director general Andrew Cooper today said that the legal action had been launched with "great reluctance"."Tour operators absorbing £50 million of retrospective taxation however is simply not an option. APD, which since its introduction has raised some £12 billion, is a general tax, and not one which is used to support transport or environmental initiatives," he said."It emphatically is not an effective environmental measure. Indeed as a tax levied on passenger numbers not aircraft, its effects are perverse in that it penalises environmentally friendly airlines with high load factors, and rewards those with half empty flights."In response, a spokesperson for the Treasury said: "The government is confident that APD is entirely legal and will robustly defend any challenge in the courts."

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