Exemptions from Air Passenger Duty

Check which types of passengers or flights are exempt from Air Passenger Duty.


Children under 2 years old without a seat are exempt from Air Passenger Duty, it does not matter what class they travel in. However, if a seat is purchased for an infant, they will only by exempt from Air Passenger Duty if they’re in the lowest class of travel.

Children under 16 years old on the date of the flight, and in the lowest class of travel, are exempt. If children under 16 years old are travelling in any other class or in business jets, they are not exempt.

People carrying out certain duties

Some people are exempt if they have duties on a flight. These are flight crews and cabin attendants, and people with the following duties (as long as they travel at the airline’s expense):

  • escorting a passenger or goods
  • undertaking repair, maintenance, safety or security work
  • preparing and handling of food and drink

All these people are also exempt if they carry out these duties within 72 hours of the flight ending. This exemption applies to people who begin a return journey within 72 hours of carrying out these duties as long as the journey is either to the place:

  • where they’re normally stationed
  • from where they normally operate

They are not exempt from duty if they:

  • travel as a passenger
  • are not doing these duties
  • are not returning to base after finishing these duties on a previous flight

Passengers carried under a statutory obligation

Passengers carried free of charge under a statutory obligation are exempt. This includes people:

  • refused admission to the UK who must be repatriated at the airline’s expense
  • who are on board to inspect the plane or crew, like Civil Aviation Authority flight operations inspectors

Transit passengers

A passenger on a plane that makes a stop en route but does not change planes is exempt for the leg of the journey immediately after the stop.

Passengers on connecting flights

A passenger who is on a connecting flight is exempt on the second or next flight of their journey. The second or next flight on a journey may be treated as connected, depending on whether that flight is to a domestic or international destination.

If a passenger travels in the lowest class of travel on a flight from a UK airport that connects to a flight where they are not in the lowest class of travel, the standard rate of duty applies.

Emergency or public service flights

When a plane operates as a military flight performed by military planes, police, customs or search and rescue flights, they’re excluded from duty. This also includes planes used for:

  • humanitarian flights and authorised emergency medical service flights
  • flights operated under a public service obligation
  • flights operated for research and training

Short pleasure flights

Passengers carried on flights that last 60 minutes or less and begin and end at the same place are exempt. Measure the 60 minutes from the plane’s doors closing to them reopening.

Scottish Highlands and Islands

Passengers carried on flights leaving from airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands region are exempt.

This area is defined as:

  • the Highland Region, Western Isles Islands Area, Orkney Islands Area, Shetland Islands Area, Argyll and Bute District, Arran, Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae
  • in the Moray District, the parishes of Aberlour, Cabrach, Dallas, Dyke, Edinkillie, Forres, Inveravon, Kinloss, Kirkmichael, Knockando, Mortlach, Rafford and Rothes

Passengers on flights from other areas of the UK to airports in this region are not exempt.

Circumstances beyond the control of the airline

If flight details or destinations change, for example, due to bad weather or mechanical failure, base the liability on the original planned flight details and destination.

Malfunctioning of a plane or bad weather could mean passengers are transferred to another plane, not necessarily operated by the same airline. In these cases a flight interruption manifest is prepared listing the passenger details. If this happens the new operator should pay any duty.

NATO flights

NATO visiting forces and NATO International Military Headquarters (IMHQ) are exempt from duties if they make the flights for official purposes. There are 2 categories for the concession:

  • wet charters
  • individual travel

Airlines must have a written and signed contract or certificate from the NATO visiting forces and NATO IMHQ with the following declaration:

The Air Passenger Duty liable on the movement of entitled military personnel under this contract is to be relieved under arrangements under an extra statutory concession (Notice 48, para 2.1) for the benefit of (name of the visiting force or International Military HQ inserted here). I hereby certify that the movement of these military personnel is for official purposes.

Wet charters

Flights carrying a NATO visiting force or NATO IMHQ members on official business are exempt from duty, as long as the leasing airline has a written contract that an authorised contracting officer of the force or IMHQ has signed. HMRC and the airline must be notified of who the authorised contracting officer is.

Individual travel

When they travel on a normal scheduled or charter flight, NATO visiting force or NATO IMHQ members on official business are exempt. This is as long as the booking includes a certificate that individually identifies the journeys entitled to relief. The certificate must be signed by an authorised signatory of the force or IMHQ. HMRC and the airline must be notified of who the authorised contracting officer is.

The airline or agent that issues the ticket must write the reference number ESC Notice 48, para 2.1 in the top left-hand corner of the ticket.

The ticket-issuing agent must forward this certificate to the airline, and the airline must keep it as evidence that the passengers were exempt.

Plane operators are responsible for accounting for duty. It’s their responsibility to check the authenticity of any signatories. They can check this with the duty helpline.

Published 29 January 2018