PLANS to end tax free sales would be “a damaging blow” for Southampton airport and could result in job losses, it has been claimed.

Leaders at Southampton Airport are urging the government to make a U-turn over plans to end tax free sales on some goods at airports from January 2021.

Airport bosses claimed that the move would result in the loss of 15 jobs at the airport in Southampton as well as £750,000 worth of annual revenue.

But the government said it has provided “unprecedented” support to the aviation sector and the changes follow concerns that the saving was not always passed on to consumers.

According to the proposals, the government will end tax-free sales in airports of goods such as electronics and clothing for passengers travelling to non-EU countries.

But Steve Szalay, managing director at Southampton Airport, said: “Without that income, not only will it severely hamper our ability to regrow once we emerge from this crisis, it will result in further job losses. Tax-free sales generate approximately £750,000 per year for the airport which is used to re-invest in the routes that support the wider Hampshire economy. I would strongly urge the Chancellor to reconsider this decision.”

Francois Bourienne, chair of  UK Travel Retail Forum (UKTRF), added: “Southampton Airport relies on tax free sales for in excess of 30% of its commercial revenues. Southampton in particular will be at an instant disadvantage, with inbound passengers from the Channel Islands still able to enjoy discounted airside sales in Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney airports. COVID-19 and the collapse of Flybe has had a significant impact on Southampton Airport’s passenger numbers, with this announcement posing yet another very real risk to the airport’s operating future.”

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead urged the government to re-look at the policy.

Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes said he will meet with the Treasury Ministers over the coming weeks in a bid to discuss alternatives.

But Southampton Itchen  MP Royston Smith added: "With few international flights currently operating I would expect the immediate impact on Southampton Airport to be limited.”

A HM Treasury Spokesperson said: “These tax changes mean people travelling to the EU can buy beers, wines and spirits duty free for the first time in over 20 years - a huge boost to British airports like Southampton. For travel outside of Europe, we’re ending tax-free shopping on other goods in airports after concerns that the saving wasn’t always passed on to consumers.”

The news comes as earlier this month airport bosses said the future of Southampton Airport will be hanging in the balance if plans to expand the runway by 164 metres are rejected.