IAG's Willie Walsh says air passenger duty 'damaging NI economy'

Willie Walsh, a long-standing critic of air passenger duty, said it was damaging the economy of Northern Ireland

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The UK's air passenger tax is "damaging the economy of Northern Ireland", senior airline executive Willie Walsh has said.

"I would have thought the government should be taking measures where it is obvious that taxation is creating a disincentive to do business," he said.

Mr Walsh is chief executive of International Airways Group.

He was speaking at the opening of a refurbished British Airways lounge at the George Best Belfast City Airport.

In Northern Ireland it has only been abolished on long-haul routes, but remains £13 per passenger per flight to short-haul destinations.

The Republic of Ireland is scrapping air passenger duty on all its flights from April.

"I speak to airline chief executives around the world and when I ask them about starting new routes to Northern Ireland, they are not interested because of the tax issue," he said.

"Look at the carriers flying into Dublin and you have to ask why?"

The Stormont Executive believes the reduction of air passenger duty is a matter for the whole of the UK and will continue to lobby the Westminster government on the matter.

It has said if Northern Ireland acted alone, it would have its block grant reduced by up to £100m a year.

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