LHR: $100 PASSENGER DUTY ON GPU??#%@

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by NYCUA1K, Jun 2, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Travel into and out of UK is notorious for all the surcharges that are imposed on airfares but this seems to me like a ridiculous double surcharge!

    I just booked a TATL trip for September with the following itinerary:

    UA: EWR -> LIS (stopover) -- W fare
    TP: LIS -> LHR (stopover) -- W fare
    UA: LHR -> IAD -> LGA -- V fare

    for which the airfare of US$729 jumped to US$1,433.60 after including taxes and other surcharges, the lion's share of which was imposed by UK. This is shown graphically below:
    LHR-FEES.png
    For instance note that the UK Air Passenger Duty ($100.80) and Passenger Service Charge ($59.80) are about 8 times the fees imposed by Portugal and twice those imposed by US. On top of that one gets slapped with an International Surcharge of $458, all of which brought the various taxes and surcharges to about 50% of the cost of the ticket!

    Anyway, that was one of the better fares that I could find so I went ahead and purchased it. I wanted to request upgrades using GPUs but had to wait "because one or more flight segments associated with the confirmation shown above is on a codeshare partner(s). This itinerary will remain in effect for 24 hours through Sun., Jun. 2, 2013. Once our codeshare partner accepts this reservation your fare will be guaranteed, your ticket will be issued with the form of payment authorized and a receipt will be sent to you." [This is where UA frequently "forgets" to ticket reservations for award travel even after the partner had confirmed availability!]

    This morning, I got confirmation that the reservation had been ticketed. I logged into my account and sure enough all the links were active, so I requested upgrades for the UA segments using 2 GPUs. The U/G for EWR->LIS segment cleared right away, while the inbound int'l segment (LHR-IAD) has been waitlisted (IAD-LGA is a one-cabin flight). Then it was time to approve or cancel the upgrade request, and that is when I noticed it: in addition to the 2 GPUs, the upgrades would cost me US$100 for Airport Passenger Duty!
    LHR-GPU-FEE.png
    This brings to mind a number of questions: How is this fee different from the UK Air Passenger Duty of $100.80 (see Fare Information Table) that I had already paid as part of the multiple surcharges for the ticket price?! Is UK/LHR double-dipping? Importantly, why is a request for a seat upgrade on a UA flight being charged an Airport Passenger Duty? Has it always been the case that GPUs for TATL flights are slapped with this fee? Inquiring minds wanna know because this fee on the GPUs seems ridiculous to me.
     
  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Congratulations on discovering that long-haul flights ex-UK attract significant charges over and above the fares; it has been that way for a while now.

    The APD fee is higher for departures in a premium cabin. You're paying the increased APD because you are now departing in a higher cabin so the fee to Her Majesty's government is higher.

    A quick search online for APD gets you a lot of good info, including the wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Passenger_Duty) which explicitly details the part where premium cabins pay double. All flights to the USA pay in Band B as our capital city is <4000 miles from there.

    Because the fee is higher if you fly in the premium cabin.

    Always is a long time. Prior to the merger I believe that UA did not charge the higher APD for passengers who upgraded. CO did AFAIK. The new company has for at least the past year.

    Also, the "International Surcharge" is the YQ, formerly known as the fuel surcharge. That's just the airline's way of hiding that fare component in the fees section. It isn't really a fee or surcharge at all in any rational sense of those terms.
     
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  3. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    Yes. :( The ADP for Economy is what you paid for, but if you are later upgraded, your ADP increases and you'll be charged for that too. It is approximately double. OTH, If you are upgraded at the gate, they do not. BUt if you are upgraded before reaching any UK based airport, you have to fork up !
     
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  4. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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  5. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Thanks for the thorough explanation, especially for the link to APD. It has been more than a decade since I traveled to UK, and even then it was really to Glasgow, Scotland...and I used to be an Anglophile ;). It is thus a new revelation for me, which has just convinced me even more that her Majesty's government is not traveler-friendly and that the Kingdom must be avoided...for another decade.:)
     
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  6. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Fine, so it is nothing new, which means that someone has had the opportunity to pose to her Majesty's government officials in charge of civil aviation the questions that I raised:
    • How is this fee different from the UK Air Passenger Duty of $100.80 (see Fare Information Table) that I had already paid as part of the multiple surcharges for the ticket price?! Because A = 2*A?
    • Is UK/LHR double-dipping?
    • Importantly, why is a request for a seat upgrade on a UA flight being charged an Airport Passenger Duty?
    Above all:
    • What makes UK/LHR special? Do they treat passenger in premium cabins better than, say, SIN/SQ?

    I now know that this ridiculous fee exists; the question is: what is the rationale for it?
     
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  7. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    It's the same duty, but the amount is higher (double) if you are not in the lowest class of service.
    The UK makes the rules...
    The UK levies an excise tax on flights using their airports. This duty is charged at different rates depending on class of service.
    I'll answer that with the rather circular "Airports in the UK are the only airports in the UK". Unless you turn back the clock, UK laws and taxes are not relevant to the situation in Singapore. There's a strong enough demand to fly out of the UK that the market bears this cost. What they deliver that's unique is the ability to fly out of the UK.
     
  8. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    You realize that these were all already answered, right??
     
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  9. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    You just stated the "what", i.e. the obvious, but not the "why". I would like to assume that we are rational beings who do things because there is a rationale for it, and often that rationale would permeate throughout an industry and become established as a standard. The question remains: what makes UK/LHR civil aviation/airport special? The RAF, at least, gave Herman Goering's Luftwaffe a hard time and may claim to be "special" for saving Europe from Nazi Germany...;)
     
  10. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Same as above...
     
  11. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    This brings another question to mind: What happens if the LHR to IAD flight is not upgraded and I remain in Y+? Would I get the $100 back, as I would the GPU?
     
  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Yes, you would.

    They aren't special. Every country applies taxes as they see fit for various products or services rendered within their borders or via companies who do business in their borders. The UK has chosen air travel as one market where there are significant taxes.

    Why? Because they can.

    And, to be quite clear, only your 4th question was the "why" one. The first three were "what" questions which were answered thrice before you asked them again.
     
  13. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Great to know because I do not like my chances to clear this LHR-IAD upgrade...
    Just as I thought. It is purely arbitrary, which makes it even more disturbing. Other busy airports like JFK or NRT or DME could do the same...Heck, imagine if all the countries with a significant civil aviation decided to emulate this practice simply because they can. It would soak folks like us who love to travel internationally!

    Like I said, this has provided me with strong incentive to avoid traveling to the Kingdom for another decade, after my upcoming 4-day excursion in Cardiff...
     
  14. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Why is it more disturbing or arbitrary than any other tax or fee? Because it's on an activity you choose to perform (flying internationally in a premium cabin) as opposed to one you do not (pick one you don't)?

    Also, be sure not to travel to France, while you're at it (their air passenger solidarity tax also goes up when you depart in a business class cabin as opposed to coach). Germany has an APD as well. You'll want to stick to flying to AMS/BRU/ZRH for the moment, or Asia.
     
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  15. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    International is the key. Britain can decide to soak all the Brits with whatever taxes they chose, I would not care. The excuse for the APD is to fight greenhouse emissions. Exactly how it does that is unclear but there are international treaties for such things (Kyoto protocol), which can be designed so that all the signatory countries would impose this 'tax' uniformly. How does charging twice for an upgrade from Y to C or F fight greenhouse gases? I see no rationale for this, so it is disturbing.
    The proliferation of a bad practice that the French and German governments seem unsure (or embarrassed?) about, considering that their rates are still not as obscene as those in UK. I am more of a TPAC traveler and have not been to UK in a decade, so I will keep this pattern, not because I cannot afford this tax since I am among those who can easily afford it (every one of my trips to EU in memory, including the one that will take me to UK after 10 years, has been a biz trip for which I got every penny reimbursed), but because this "tax" truly offends me.

    Reductio ad absurdum: Like all bad practices, other countries will soon "retaliate" or copy this tax and suddenly______(I will let you draw the conclusion on what will happen to the costs of international travel).
     
  16. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    http://blog.arniston-bay.com/index.php/2009/02/clip-your-carbon-wingspan/

    Those nice lay-flat seats DO have mechanisms that weigh a lot more than coach seats do (and the fuel required to transport the jet surrounding you, and the fuel itself, and so on).

    If the costs of international travel do not actually reflect the environmental harm that is caused by it, the cost is in essence being externalized to people who do not choose to do so (or cannot afford it). These taxes are supposedly meant to reflect this.

    That being said, I suspect this is leading us to a political discussion that won't prove very fruitful, so I'll just say that this is likely the logic the the British are using.
     
  17. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Agreed. The discussion is beginning to have that feel... Let's just wait and see where we'll be in a decade with this "tax". However, a potential solution could be for int'l airlines to refuse to enforce it since it seems that pre-merger UA did not have this 'tax' (I am not sure at what cost).

    Clarification 1: It would seem that PMUA did not charge the APD on GPUs until check in time. So, they really did not get away with refusing to enforce it. The post-merger change was to impose the APD at booking or upon requesting an upgrade.

    Clarification of the Clarification: I just did more "research" and it seems that PMUA did not charge the APD at all. They just decided to eat the cost. This BoardingArea post and this one are a must if one is interested in this at all.
     
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  18. YULtide

    YULtide Gold Member

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    Compensation for lost taxes on tea.
     
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  19. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The APD has a loftier purpose than that. It helps to keep the Queen/Crown at the top of the list of the Richest Monarchs and Royals of the World. The 2013 list is out and guess who came out on top... again, beating all the middle-eastern "oil royals", who beat all the "old western monarchs" except for...you guessed it!;)
     
  20. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I'm surprised we haven't seen you rant on hotel taxes - also levied on non-residents, mostly in the USA - or rental car fees or any of a variety of other charges levied against non-residents for the sake of filling the coffers of a locality, state or federal government. All taxes are arbitrary. Such is life. But good luck in your lobbying efforts to get it overturned.

    At least VAT paid in most countries is refunded for tourists. The USA doesn't alow that, with states taxing visitors at the going rate without exception.
     
  21. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I have not experienced such taxes in the US and nor would they bother me since they are domestic and enacted by representatives I voted for (or against). The foreigners are free to rant but this is apples and oranges. If I were in London as a non-resident and there were British taxes for non-residents, I would have no beef about that. As a non-resident, I would quite likely be benefiting from services that residents pay for in other ways. However, this APD abomination is in a different class. I travel to London, pay whatever taxes they might have for non-residents, and as I am leaving on a foreign airline, I am slapped with a surcharge for wanting to travel in comfort over international waters? Give me a break!

    BTW, the notion that all taxes are arbitrary would not stand up to the most cursory of scrutinies...
     
  22. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    All taxes *are* arbitrary. Pretty much by definition. "User fees" (including tolls) are based on a specific service being provided and are set to pretty much recoup the cost of providing that service; "taxes" are (as one Ministry of Finance official told me with a perfectly straight face during a negotiation) "a payment for which you receive nothing."

    And the reason that places with a significant transient "taxpayer base" tax transients highly (e.g., tourist taxes, lodging and rental car surcharges, etc.) is precisely because those being taxed do not have the opportunity to hold those who impose the tax accountable via a vote.

    And when one doesn't have a vote, one must rely on the market to keep these charges reasonable. As you say, such high taxes are going to encourage you not to transit through the UK, but rather use some other routing. That market attitude (a) punishes a taxing authority that imposes abusive fees when viable less costly alternatives exist, and (b) encourages other alternative transit locations to keep their taxes lower in order to be competitive.
     
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  23. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    So you've never stayed in a hotel or rented a car in a city or state where you do not vote? I find that hard to believe.

    Taxes are enacted all the time which affect people who are not represented by the taxing authority. You used SIN as an example earlier. All passengers leaving SIN must pay a Singapore Aviation Levy. The dollar amount may be lower, but it is the exact same concept. It is repeated at countries around the world.
    This tax applies equally to residents and non-residents. And, yes, you are benefiting from paying it, just like you would benefit from visitors paying taxes on hotel rooms in your hometown.

    The tax applies to all passengers and to all airlines. You are not being charged differently for leaving on a foreign airline. You are being charged more for flying in a premium cabin but, well, you're paying a different fare for that, too. Why is it an abomination that the government has chosen to tax based on consumption versus a flat rate per person?

    You don't have to like paying the taxes/fees. Most people, given the option, would choose not to. But the indignation and outrage being displayed here is almost laughable.
     
  24. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Such sophomoric huffing and puffing! I do not wish to get into the history of taxation; just Google it. For my exit strategy, I will just quote the only post that got it right so far:
    Because I find the logic to be appalling to nonexistent, I will avoid her Majesty's realm for at least another 10 years.

    Ciao, mate.
     
  25. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I disagree with the *all* part, and a few examples will show why. The size of taxes can be arbitrary (see: APD), but as soon as humans decided to organize into advanced societies, taxation, which started out as an extortion scheme by the mighty over the meek, became a necessity.

    Reductio Ad absurdum: Modern societies must have firefighters, police departments, clean water, armies, etc, so that abolishing taxation would lead to chaos.

    ...ergo, taxation is no longer something to simply despise; it has become a necessity in the real world, and the logic for it is clear.

    A Nassau County, Long Island, Taxed Enough Already (Tea) party official ran a campaign and won an election on the promise that he was going to slash taxes and rein in spending. He accomplished the former and ignored the latter with consequences that inspired a column by the liberal Nobel economist Paul Krugman titled The New Voodoo. It is almost comical.

    On the other hand, as the lack of a coherent logic to explain APD shows, taxation can still be as arbitrary as it was in its origins and Britain has a long history in that regard:
    APD simply follows a long tradition of truly arbitrary taxes.

    With that I must exit for good, unless there is a new angle...
     

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