Virgin Atlantic is to waive Air Passenger Duty (APD) on flights to Cancun booked this weekend as it steps up its campaign against the tax.

The carrier estimates the government will earn almost £600 million or £10 million a day in APD during the peak summer months of July and August.

The bulk of the charges will be met by leisure travellers, including overseas visitors expected to come to London for the Olympic Games.

Airline founder and president Sir Richard Branson, speaking in Mexico at the launch of the Cancun route, said Virgin will be taking positive action against one of the world’s highest aviation taxes.

The carrier will offer tickets to Cancun ‘APD free’ on bookings made over July 14-15 to mark the new route and highlight the banding system that places the destination in a more expensive tax bracket than Hawaii.

A message on all e-tickets, including those issued by Virgin Holidays. will criticise the tax and encourage passengers to petition their local MP against it via the website

Sir Richard said: “This suffocating tax has rocketed way out of control. Years of above-inflation increases have hit passengers hard, are hitting the economy hard and are impeding our recovery from the recession.

“In Olympic year, it is obscene for the Treasury to be taking £10 million every day from visitors and British holidaymakers alike.

“A family of four is now being asked to pay £325 in Air Passenger Duty to take a holiday to Cancun. It is a disgrace. We are today announcing an APD sale for Cancun to underline our fight against one of the highest taxes in the world.

“We urge all of our passengers to add their voice and petition politicians to get their acts together and stop penalising travellers.”

The ‘APD free tickets to Cancun’ offer applies to bookings for travel between  28 August – December 5 and January 1 – March 12, 2013.