Travel Hacks: 8 Ways To Avoid The UK Air Passenger Duty (Airport Departure Tax)

by Kerwin McKenzie on September 30, 2016

8 Ways To Avoid The UK Air Passenger Duty (Airport Departure Tax)


At the time of this writing, the U.K. is perhaps the country with the most expensive departure taxes. Having visited the U.K. many times, before the taxes got so high and after, I came up with 8 ways to avoid the UK Air Passenger Duty (Airport Departure Tax).

I’ve even written a book, Alternate Airports in the U.K. which gives you a list of all the commercial airports in the U.K. and how to get to them. This will help you in case you want to escape the departure taxes or get bumped. It also gives all the airlines which serve the airport. Get your copy here if you’ve not already done so.

(Use to pin on Pinterest)


8 Ways To Avoid The UK APD 8 Ways To Avoid The UK APD



Before I give you the 8 Ways, maybe I should start at the beginning…



Some years ago, the U.K. imposed what is called an Air Passenger Duty (APD) on all flights leaving the U.K. Most countries do have a departure tax as an added source of revenue from tourism, but the reason why the U.K.’s is a big deal is that its the most expensive of any country. As a result many people I know don’t go to the U.K. since its usually about £75 just to leave the country and return to the U.S. in Economy Class. If you travel in Business or First Class its higher at £150. Instead they transit within 24 hours as the taxes are lower or figure out another way to exit that does not involve an airplane since the APD is on flights only.



St. Paul's Cathedral Dome London, England St. Paul’s Cathedral Dome London, England



The APD is nonexistent in Belfast, Northern Ireland (BFS) as it would make them non-competitive with Dublin (DUB) and Shannon, Ireland. (SNN)

Now, this is not the only tax that is charged, but its the one that’s the highest from the U.K. (except Belfast which has no APD a UB tax of £16.10). Here is a list of the other taxes you pay unless your airline waives them for you (compliments of ITA Software):


United States Immigration User Fee (XY)
United States Customs User Fee (YC)
United States APHIS Passenger Fee Passengers (XA)
United Kingdom Air Passenger Duty APD (GB)
United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge Departures (UB)
US International Arrival Tax (US)
Economy Class Total per passenger


United States Immigration User Fee (XY)
United States Customs User Fee (YC)
United States APHIS Passenger Fee Passengers (XA)
United Kingdom Air Passenger Duty APD (GB)
United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge Departures (UB)
US International Arrival Tax (US)
First/Business Class Total per passenger


It’s the same reason why people don’t want to visit the countries that have high visa costs such as Brazil, China and Russia. Argentina and Chile had high costs, but have since removed these egregious taxes. As an aside, the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) works very hard with countries to show them that having a departure tax at all decreases the number of tourists visiting. This is an ongoing task.


Now that you have a background you hopefully understand why some passriders want to avoid shelling out this extra money. There are several ways to avoid this tax, although some comes close to the £118.06 for Economy Class. I know that some airlines have been able to negotiate the same APD rate for the Economy and Business class, but you’ll want to check with your airline to make sure. Otherwise it will be£227.01 for Business/First Class. Also, here is a list of departure taxes for select airports in Europe.



London Sign London Sign



Here goes:

1). Depart from Belfast, Northern Ireland (BFS)

There is no APD from Belfast, so that drastically reduces the total tax you pay. However, you may require a hotel night stay if you can’t make the tight connection on Ryanair (FR) from London.


2). Depart from the Scottish Highlands and Islands

Ah, a good one. These areas are exempt from the APD, but they are remote so you first have to get there either by bus, rail or airplane, then fly to another country and then fly back home. A great experience that you would do so you experience a different part of the U.K. The airports in question are more than likely Inverness (INV) and maybe Kirkwall (KOI) as from here you can depart the U.K. to say Amsterdam (AMS), Dublin (DUB) or Geneva (GVA) or even Norway depending on the season.


3). Take a ferry

I once took a combination of the train and the ferry from Reading to London to a place called Hollyhead where I picked up the Irish Ferry to Dublin (DUB). I could have then taken another train up to Belfast or a bus to Shannon (SNN). The good thing is that you can buy all this on one ticket online at the National Rail Web site:-). If you buy the different tickets separately, it will cost a lot more. Its a fantastic journey that takes you to some part of the U.K. you’d perhaps never visit. The best parts were the journey through Wales seeing places I can’t pronounce as well as passing the train station with the longest name “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” and taking the Irish Ferry.

UK APD - National Rail Hollyhead UK APD – National Rail Hollyhead


4). Take a bus

There are several bus services from the U.K. to other parts of Europe. I’ve taken IDBUS, now OUIBUS to Paris and it worked well. It’s a long overnight journey, but very interesting as the bus goes through the Chunnel inside a train, which is just a cool experience. You can see my review here. There are also additional bus services such as Eurolines or Flixbus and National Express which has services throughout Europe. Just check the schedules and ensure you don’t cut it too close. As an example the journey time from London to Frankfurt is about 16 hours and cost about 54 EUR on FlixBus and about the 20 on National Express. Of course the price varies based on when you are traveling and the amount of time between when you buy the ticket and when you travel. Some of the booking sites will charge an online booking fee, so beware of that.

UK APD - flixbus UK APD – flixbus


5). Share a ride

You can take the adventure a little further and share a car ride with perfect strangers through a service called Bla Bla Car. Get on the site say where you are starting, then where you are going and the date and voila, it shows you a list of people who are going your way. You settle up with whatever is being requested for payment.

UK APD - Bla Bla Car UK APD – Bla Bla Car


6). Take a train

This is perhaps the most expensive way, although in the ferry example above, it was combined with trains and was not too bad a cost. You can use the National Rail Web site, Rail Europe or Eurail to do your searches. Well, you can’t really use Eurail since it does not cover the U.K. But you can use Deutsche Bahn. The trains are quicker; only 5.5 to 7.5 for London to Frankfurt, but you pay more so this will defeat the purpose you are trying to accomplish. You may also take the Eurostar from Central London to Paris, then take a local train or bus to the airport in Roissy (CDG).

UK APD - National Rail UK APD – National Rail


7). Transit for less than 24 hours

When the APD started it did not affect you if you were doing weekend turns, since you were in the country less than 24 hours. But then they changed it so say if you return to your country of origin you still have to pay. But you can continue onto another country and then the departure tax will be less since the transit tax is less and also the APD is done by distance. So if you were flying back from say Amsterdam and transiting London, you would not pay as much.


8). Don’t go

Yeah, this one is crazy, but this is the option some of my friends have chosen. I don’t agree with is as you are really missing out on a great country, but I get where you are coming from.

So what are your creative ways of avoiding the U.K. APD? Leave a comment below and tell me.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Fred McGary September 30, 2016 at 11:22 pm

Aone idea is to buy a Stena Line ferry ticket from London to Netherlands and fly from AMS. The overnight ferry plus two trains can be cheaper than a hotel night in London. You leave in the evening and can be at AMS in time to catch the flights to the US.


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 30, 2016 at 11:57 pm

Hi Fred,

You think so?
A ferry ticket plus two train tickets cheaper than a hotel night in London?
I’m all for saving money, but… :-).

One thing to is that we usually buy tickets at the last minute since we don’t know if we will make the flights.



avatar Michael Calhoon October 1, 2016 at 2:17 am

Great article. Thank you so much!


avatar Kerwin McKenzie October 1, 2016 at 3:32 am

You are welcome Michael. Glad you liked it.



avatar Steve October 24, 2016 at 2:49 pm

What about the Eurostar high speed train from London to Paris. Will that get you around the departure fee? The Eueostar cost about the same but at least you get a cool train ride.


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