MPs received 40,000 emails opposing high levels of Air Passenger Duty as a Twitter campaign went viral on Friday.

Micro-blogging site Twitter sent emails to politicians via the website.

The Twitter push means that 55,000 emails have been sent to MPs in what is being described as one of the biggest social media lobbying campaigns ever organised.

The A Fair Tax on Flying industry lobby group attributed the surge in support to the ‘Branson effect’ after the Virgin Atlantic founder publicly backed the campaign.

The airline’s chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “Thousands of Virgin Atlantic passengers have thrown their support behind this campaign.

“When people realise just how much tax they are paying to fly, particularly compared with other countries, they immediately want to tell their MP. I hope the politicians take their constituents’ concerns seriously, and then act.”

MPs responded by calling for Treasury research into APD.

Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy MP said: “I hope that the government will listen to the thousands of people who have written to them on this this issue, and undertake a comprehensive impact assessment to establish the true economic consequences of the increase of Air Passenger Duty”.

He is one of 66 MPs to have signed a parliamentary early day motion expressing concern about the “financial impact on ordinary families and their ability to fly” from the UK’s air passenger taxes and “notes the impact on businesses wishing to export to emerging markets”.

The motion is also backed by a group of senior cross-party MPs including former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, Conservative 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady and select committee chair Keith Vaz.

Kennedy added: “There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the UK’s Air Passenger Duty is acting as a significant brake on inward investment and inbound tourism and is putting the UK at a competitive disadvantage, particularly against our European neighbours.

“Rural communities such as those in my constituency rely heavily upon air travel to support their businesses, and to bring invaluable tourism to the area. It is therefore unavoidable that this increase will have a detrimental impact on many of my constituents.”

Mark Durkan MP, who is encouraging constitutents to lobby him, said: “This is not about spending hours writing letters to me. However, for me to be able to make the case to the Treasury against the current levels of the tax, I need as many people as possible to email me directly.”

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer added: “Every day thousands of people are emailing their MP, which is testament to the burgeoning opposition to this tax from ordinary travellers and businesses.

“The government would be foolish to ignore the voice of so many people who are so strongly opposed to paying the highest air passenger taxes anywhere in the world.”