France leads 13-strong coalition on air ticket tax
An international effort to tax the airline industry finally came into focus this week, as 12 countries decided to join France in imposing a levy on air tickets at a conference in Paris on Wednesday.Despite flying being the most greenhouse gas-intensive form of transport, the airline industry has so far benefited from tax exemptions on flight tickets and air fuel, as well as high subsidies for airlines and airports, environmentalists say.
France was the first to impose a tax on tickets for all flights leaving the country, to come into force in July.
Amounting to 1% of ticket prices on average, France's tax should reduce flying - and greenhouse gas emissions - by the same amount, estimates the European Federation for Transport and the Environment (T&E).
"It is a small step. But this is a very protected sector. Any move to tax it is a step in the right direction, to get it in line with other forms of transport," T&E spokesman Dudley Curtis told edie.
Britain, Norway, Luxembourg, Brazil, Chile, Congo, Cyprus, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Madagascar, Mauritius and Nicaragua all agreed to follow France in imposing a tax on air tickets, at an international conference called by French president Jacques Chirac.
The money raised from the tax, estimated at 210m euros (£144m) for the French contribution, will be donated as aid for the developing world.
Prices of flights from France, the world's most popular tourist destination, will rise by an amount ranging from 1 euro for economy tickets to EU destinations to 40 euro for international business flights.
But the 1% fall in air traffic brought on by the slight rise in ticket prices will be more than cancelled out by the overall growth of the air industry, estimated at 5% a year, T&E points out.
The environmental organisation calls for other measures, including a tax on air fuel and the inclusion of aviation in European emissions trading, to curb the uncontrolled growth in flights and associated greenhouse emissions.
"It is the environmental impact that's important, so the means used should be a combination. The most effective way would be for taxes on flights to reflect the emissions they produced," said the T&E spokesman.
Among those opposing the air ticket tax are the United States, tourist destinations such as Italy and Greece, and, predictably, the airline industry, which argues that it is already hard-hit by rising fuel prices.
By Goska Romanowicz