US air passenger taxes are now among the highest in the world

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What’s the scoop with US air passenger taxes?

According to a new report from the global accounting and consultancy network UHY, air passenger taxes in the United States are now among the highest in the world. UHY looked at taxes and compulsory government charges imposed for each economy class passenger by 21 worldwide governments and analyzed additional charges imposed by airport operators. The network concluded that these additional costs harm tourism, put enterprises trying to expand overseas at an unfair disadvantage, reduce labor mobility and disadvantage remote regional cities.

Internationally, the average levy imposed is $23 on a short-haul economy class ticket and $53 on a long-haul economy class ticket. The US imposes the highest taxes of any G7 economy – $23 worth of taxes on a short-haul flight and $28 on a long-haul flight.

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Compared with Russia, which imposes the highest average amount of $52 short-haul and a whopping $272 long-haul, the US may seem quite fair in its calculations, but when you compare these figures with countries like Belgium, Japan and Ireland that impose none of these taxes whatsoever, it seems more than just a little unfair.

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Taxes around the world

Tell me more about US air passenger and other taxes…

​Government-imposed taxes on air transportation were introduced for airlines and their customers to contribute appropriately to the national treasury. The airline industry is concentrated and perceived as a luxury service provider, so it’s susceptible to high levels of taxation.

Among the purposes of the many special taxes and fees are:

  • Homeland Security
  • Environmental protection
  • Agriculture inspection
  • Infrastructure enhancement
  • Airport and airway operations and maintenance
  • Agency financing

The amount a passenger pays in fees and taxes varies according to the air itinerary, including the number of times a new flight is boarded and at which airports.

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Airlines for America illustrate the application of government-imposed taxes on a hypothetical domestic itinerary, calculating the average taxes of 21% of a ticket:

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Government-imposed taxes

What else do I need to know about US air passenger taxes?

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Delta is one airline that shows its passengers the taxes and carrier-imposed fees that might be included in a fare, with their base fare plus US excise and departure/arrival taxes when they apply as well as the taxes and carrier-imposed fees including airport charges, government taxes and fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges.

While many airlines do this, lobbyists ask that instead, these taxes and fees are abolished as they are unfair or reduced to become a fairer tax or simply included in advertised fares so that a final ticket price isn’t a confusing shock.

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