Disputing UK Air Passenger Duty Charges

Posted on Mon 15 February 2016 in travel

This summer, the Choudhury household is summering in Spain, and I just used a good chunk of our American Airlines mile stash to book the LHR-SJU portion of our GRX-LHR-SJU-LAX itinerary.

Total cost: 135000 AAdvantage miles and $1532 in taxes and fees.

As airline awards go, this isn't a great redemption: it worked out to 1.9 cents per mile at prevailing economy fares. The flight is direct though, and with the arrival of our child, my wife and I have softened our stance on never paying BA's notorious fees and taxes.

That doesn't mean that we just ponied up the cash though. A careful look at the final receipt revealed that a huge chunk of the bill was made up of the Air Passenger Duty: a distance based tax charged on all departures from UK airports, magnified by the class of service flown.

On our itinerary, the APD came to a whopping $211 for each of our three tickets. Yikes.

Going back to the HRMC document:

Where the second of 2 flights (flight B) is an international flight (that is from the UK to an international destination), flight B is treated as connected if its booked time of departure falls within 24 hours of the scheduled time of arrival of the first flight (flight A).

This describes our situation perfectly: our GRX-LHR leg on Iberia (flight A) arrives in London at 6PM, 21 hours before my 3.25PM LHR-SJU leg (flight B) departs the next day. Legally, we had standing to ask for the removal of the APD from our ticket; the question now was whether AA's rate desk would concur.

After giving a very helpful American Airlines agent my Iberia ticket numbers starting in 075-, I asked if she couldn't get her rate desk to waive the APD on the award tickets. It took half an hour on hold, but the refund eventually came through.

Total savings: $633.

The redemption still isn't spectacular, but $633 is nothing to sneeze at, especially since all it took was the perusal of some very nicely formatted government documents and half an hour on the phone.

TLDR; Don't ever be afraid to call in to get a better deal.