London is one of my favorite cities to visit, and with lots of frequent options from the United States, it’s an excellent connecting point to further European destinations (though I know many will disagree with me here). From the east coast of the US, it’s only a 5 hour time difference, vs. the rest of mainland Europe on a 6 hour difference, which can make a huge difference for jet lag.
Flying from the UK can be a pain for premium travelers, all in part to the UK Air Passenger Duty (UKAPD). Determined based on flight length, the tax is levied on premium class passengers leaving the United Kingdom. Fees are hefty and can add up quick, so let’s take a look at the specifics of the duty.
Here are the current rates as of this posting:
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There are two rates: one for the lowest class of service on the plane, and one for all other classes above it. This means that any Premium Economy cabin or higher would be charged the higher of the two rates, since Premium Economy is not considered the lowest cabin on the aircraft.
It’s worth noting that this tax is only for flying from the UK, and not to the UK. You won’t be charged this tax on a flight from New York to London, for example. Connections for less than 24 hours don’t incur this tax, though at the 25th hour, you’re considered an originating passenger and will be levied the duty. If you use any type of mileage upgrade or systemwide upgrade, you are also assessed the duty fee.
How can you minimize paying the tax?
When departing the UK for the US, consider a stopover in a country less than 2,000 miles away, that way you pay the lowest possible tax bracket. Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt are great for this purposes, since these are major hubs for big-name carriers.
Since most US to London flights are red-eyes, it’s worth upgrading or paying for a premium cabin on that route. Since all London to US flights are daytime, due to the time difference, upgrading may not be as important, and by avoiding this, you also avoid the additional duty.
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