“Eye-wateringly high” Air Passenger Duty should be halved to make the UK more competitive internationally and demonstrate that the country is open for business.

The call for the 50% cut in the air tax came from the Airport Operators Association ahead of next week’s government autumn statement.

The level of APD – one of the highest rates in the world – mean that the UK has to work harder to convince airlines that a new route or higher frequencies on existing routes have a good business case, according to the AOA.

The high rate of tax hurts tourism, business travel, and people seeking to visit friends and family abroad, it claims.

Association chief executive Darren Caplan said: “The UK begins its negotiations with the EU and trading nations across the globe from a position of fundamental economic strength.

“In the coming years, it will become increasingly important to seize opportunities to consolidate and build on this strength. Having one of the highest rates of APD in the world clearly puts the UK at a competitive disadvantage globally.”

He added: “The vast majority of tourism and business travellers, and those visiting friends and family, travel to and from the UK by air, with imports and exports carried with them in the bellyhold of planes.

“Eye-wateringly high levels of APD are therefore a tax on both consumers and business, holding the UK back from realising its full potential.

“Halving APD is a realistic ‘ask’ of the Treasury, sending out a signal internationally and encouraging airlines to schedule more routes to the UK and fly more frequently on existing routes, boosting the UK’s connectivity.

“This call is also supported by ‘A Fair Tax on Flying’, the campaigning group comprising airports, airlines, and business, travel and tourism groups.

“We are all united in seeking ways to improve the UK’s future trading and tourism prospects, and so we urge the government to send a clear signal of intent at the autumn statement that the UK is open for business by halving APD.”