British Airways boss Willie Walsh has attacked government plans to switch from Air Passenger Duty (APD) to a tax on aircraft despite Abta and much of the leisure travel industry backing the change.

Walsh told members of the Aviation Club in London: “The Treasury is well aware of the flaws in the per-plane concept, having considered and rejected it two years ago.”

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to “explore changes” to the APD regime in last month’s emergency budget and Abta has urged ministers to reveal the initial proposals this month before the summer recess. However, the previous government examined and rejected a similar move amid fierce opposition from BA and other scheduled long-haul carriers.

Walsh said: “Such a tax would increase carbon emissions by diverting traffic through hubs outside the UK.”

However, he also slammed the repeated rises in APD and called for an end to the tax when airlines join the European Union emissions trading scheme in 2012. This is expected to add a cost for emissions to fares.

Walsh complained: “Aviation is regarded by policymakers as a kind of cash machine with wings. We are in severe danger of pricing large numbers of people out of flying.”

The duty on air fares from the UK will rise again this November to £12 on short flights and up to £85 on the longest.