The Brussels move has aroused fury across the world with the Commission being accused of overstepping its powers by imposing a tax on airlines from outside the EU.
Even before the scheme was declared legal by the European Court of Justice Hillary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State, warned the EU that Washington reserved the right to take action if the Commission did not back down.
In a letter jointly signed by Ray LaHood, the American Secretary of Transportation, she said the USA “will be compelled to take appropriate action.”
Simon Buck, the chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, voiced fears that other measures could follow.
“We think there is a real danger of retaliation. There could be problems with groundhandling. EU airlines could be allocated poor slots at airports or be given lower priority by air traffic control.
“They could decide to impose an environmental charge on particular airlines on inbound flights from Europe.
“This could lead to a damaging trade war that is in no one’s interests.’’
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman added: “The scheme is still subject to potential blocking legislation in the US and is at risk of retaliatory action from other countries.”
British Airways voiced similar fears. “Trying to impose a scheme on non-EU airlines risks retaliatory action against EU airlines and EU trade at a time when the European economy is under severe pressure. The European Commission needs a Plan B in case there is retaliatory action.”
Elsewhere Governments outside the EU have united in condemning the levy. The first hint of widespread retaliation came in the summer when Beijing was reported to have blocked an order for 10 Airbus A380s which were due to be added to the fleet by Hong Kong Airlines .
The Emissions Trading System, which starts in January, will see airlines being being expected to buy carbon permits if they exceed their allocation from the EU.
Although the scheme starts next month, airlines will not receive their first carbon bill until April 2013.
While APD is a levy imposed directly on the passenger, airlines could absorb the cost of they wish.