Christmas and New Year may only just be over, but thousands of families across the UK are already looking forward to their summer holidays. What's more, thousands of families are already looking forward to saving money on their flights.
Following the Budget announcement last spring, Chancellor George Osborne announced in early December 2014 that the unpopular Air Passenger Duty (APD) travel tax for children will be abolished on May 1, 2015.
Right now it applies to children who are aged under 12 years on May 1, 2015, travelling economy class. On March 1, 2016, this will be extended to under-16s flying all classes.
What do the airlines make of it?
It's proving a popular decision with the carriers. They are eager to see the back of the APD, which bmi's regional chief executive Cathal O'Connell called "punitive".
The British Air Transport Association (BATA) say that families are certainly getting the better end of the deal right now: while you get the savings, they're lumbered with putting the changes into practice with less than six months' notice, rather than the expected 12.
The short-term pain of system updates and refunds means long-term benefits: more holidaymakers.
What this means for you...
Economy flight taxes are currently £13 to £97 per child, depending on the distance of the journey, and are split into four bands:
- Band A: £13 for destinations under 2,000 miles e.g. Spain, Turkey or North Africa
- Band B: £69 for journeys 2,001 to 4,000 miles, such as New York or Dubai
- Band C: £85 for journeys 4,001 to 6,000 miles, like the Caribbean or Asia
- Band D: £97 for destinations over 6,000 miles, such as Australia
That means a family with two eligible children will save £26 on a short-haul flight (say, Greece) and up to £194 on long-haul flights (New Zealand perhaps).
Getting your refunds
Most carriers have already said they'll refund the tax on fares for children under 12 – as long as the flight is booked for travel after May 1, 2015. The fastest movers so far are budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet, with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Monarch and bmi set to follow suit.
Quickest off the draw was Ryanair, which is refunding the £13 APD for journeys booked to take place after March 27, 2015. At six weeks before May 1, not only is it ahead of the other airlines, but also the Easter break. It's also waiving the £17 admin fee it would normally charge to put such refunds through.
Holiday operators TUI and Thomson will also be issuing refunds. If you've booked a packaged holiday then the process is more straightforward, as you'll most likely have paid only a deposit.
The small print
Although easyJet will "proactively refund" passengers already booked to fly out after April 2015, not all refunds will be automatic. All the carriers are taking bookings for May 1 onwards at the old prices until their systems are updated, so you'll mostly be making claims manually.
Whether you're flying to the other side of the world or the other end of the UK, make sure you apply for your refund and fly a few pounds lighter in 2015.