Air Passenger Duty on long-haul flights from Northern Ireland is due to be scrapped, after a vote by the Northern Ireland Executive.
The measure will come into effect in January next year, and will see passengers flying long distance from Belfast paying zero duty.
Air Passenger Duty, or APD, is a tax levied on all flights departing from the UK and has been heavily criticised by airlines and those from the aviation industry.
The tax has soared in recent years, and can cost a family hundreds of pounds extra for flights to long-haul destinations.
The Northern Ireland Executive’s decision, which it was able to make due to its devolved powers, has been welcomed by finance minister Sammy Wilson.
“Direct air links facilitate local firms in doing business with customers outside the region. They are also vital for the local tourism industry and in attracting foreign direct investment to Northern Ireland, both key to growing and rebalancing our economy,” he told the BBC.
“Abolishing air passenger duty on long haul flights will help to protect and improve our international air access and ensure the competitiveness of our airports.”
APD on long-haul flights from Northern Ireland was reduced by the Department for Transport last year, to the same level as APD for short-haul flights.
It is hoped that scrapping the duty altogether will boost international visitor numbers to Northern Ireland, as well as helping the country to compete with the Republic of Ireland where short-haul APD is just €3.
“Given the increasing differential with regard to direct long-haul air passenger duty levels between the UK and Republic of Ireland, and the very specific problems which this caused for Northern Ireland connectivity, we are grateful to the Northern Ireland Executive and HM Treasury that decisive action has been taken,” said John Doran, managing director of Belfast International Airport.
“We now look forward with renewed vigour to building upon the success of our direct US air links, as well as reaching out into key additional long-haul markets in Canada and the eastern hemisphere.”
APD has increased by 250 per cent since it was first introduced, and has drawn fierce criticism, with many claiming it is damaging the UK’s aviation industry.