THE boss of the company which owns Bournemouth Airport has joined calls for the government to cut the tax on passenger flights between UK destinations.

The government is under pressure to slash air passenger duty (APD) on domestic flights as a way of supporting the beleaguered airline Flybe.

Andrew Bell, chief executive of Regional & City Airports – which owns four airports including Bournemouth – backed moves to cut the tax.

He said: “This is a situation that absolutely highlights the importance of supporting domestic air connectivity in the UK, which is vital to the economy and prospects of the regions right across the country.”

Boris Johnson has said the government is “working very hard to do what we can” to save Flybe but that there are “limits” to what can be done to help individual companies.

Chancellor Sajid Javid will hold talks with the business and transport secretaries to discuss whether Flybe can defer paying this year’s estimated APD bill of £106million for three years or whether the tax should be cut for all domestic flights, it has been reported.

Passengers on domestic flights pay £26 in APD for a return trip, with higher rates for longer flights and premium cabins.

Mr Johnson told BBC Breakfast: “It’s not for government to step in and save companies that simply run into trouble. But be in no doubt that we see the importance of Flybe in delivering connectivity across the whole United Kingdom.”

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that “bailing out a company through a tax cut across the industry is not the way forward”.

Mr Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “From a regional airport perspective, there’s no question that the regions in which the airports sit, that RCA own and operate, and the wider airport network cross the UK absolutely require connectivity.”

He said airports were “part of the national infrastructure in the same way that roads and rail are”.

“Aviation receives barely any support, for example, in the context of the railways and really what this issue with Flybe is focusing on is the absolute importance of supporting that infrastructure,” he added.

Critics argue against making flights cheaper, pointing out that airlines already get their fuel tax-free.

South West MEP Molly Scott Cato has said: “Subsidising domestic flight routes means trading off future generations against the convenience of today’s elite travellers. Instead, we should subsidise faster and cheaper trains.”

Pressed on the environmental arguments against making flights cheaper, Mr Bell said: “The first thing we need to remember is that the whole industry – airlines, airports, manufacturers – are completely committed to the journey towards net zero.

“Within that, there’s no doubt that if you want to get from one UK region to another UK region, at the moment one of the most efficient ways you can do it is by flying with Flybe. People are still going to try and make those journeys and they will end up making them in less efficient ways in the future if our national infrastructure and regional connectivity are not just supported and maintained but actively encouraged to grow.”

Flybe does not currently fly from Bournemouth Airport, although in recent times it has offered routes to Jersey, Glasgow, Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam.