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Government plans for duty free on UK trips to help stricken airports


Eamon Ryan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Eamon Ryan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Eamon Ryan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

The Government is considering a proposal to fast-track the reintroduction of duty free from January 1 for all UK routes to help airports and ports crippled by the pandemic.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan are considering the proposal as part of a series of measures aimed at helping the country's airports cope with the escalating financial fallout from the virus pandemic and collapse in air passenger numbers.

If reintroduced, the ability to purchase cheap alcohol and tobacco products - as well as perfumes and luxury goods - is gauged to act as a strong encouragement for people to resume flying on Ireland's busiest air routes to cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Ireland abolished duty free sales to the UK - in line with Brussels directives - 21 years ago as being incompatible with the EU Single Market.

The abolition came after Ireland had emerged as a world leader in duty free and airport shopping, assisting numerous countries including Russia to develop their own aviation retail sector.

Duty free sales remained for all non-EU destinations. With the UK's transition deal set to expire on December 31 after Brexit, airports have now identified duty free to the UK as a critical source of revenue generation. Ports also strongly favour the move.

The UK Treasury has confirmed duty free goods can be purchased by EU bound travellers from January 1 at departure points in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is covered by a separate agreement with EU duty free sales still not clarified.

An Irish aviation source described the reintroduction of duty free on UK routes as "a natural stimulus to the airport sector".

"It would not only act as a natural stimulus but would also provide a critical source of revenue for airports whose revenues have been devastated by the Covid-19 crisis," they said.

Dublin Airport has been one of the hardest hit in the world by the pandemic with a loss of passengers calculated at -97.2pc.

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Other Irish airports including Cork, Shannon and Ireland West/Knock, have also seen business decimated by the pandemic. The industry expects it to be at least 2024 before the full effects of the pandemic are alleviated in terms of a recovery in overall passenger numbers.

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