(photo: Schiphol Group)
Mon 30 Mar 2009 – The Dutch Government is to scrap from July 1 its air passenger ticket tax, first dubbed the ‘eco’ tax when it was introduced against major opposition by aviation and local industry last year. The controversial departure tax, which ranges from 11 to 45 euros, is blamed for a steep decline in passenger traffic at the main Dutch airports, particularly at Amsterdam Schiphol. The move was welcomed by airlines, particularly those from the low-cost sector, who called for similar taxes to be abandoned in Italy, Ireland and the UK.
The tax was expected to raise around €300 million ($395m) a year but a commissioned report concluded that it would cost the Dutch economy €1.3 billion ($1.7bn) in lost revenue. At a time when the Government was trying to underpin the economy, reports aviationwatch.eu, the Dutch transport ministry, backed by the aviation industry, business, tourism and right-wing parties, won the day against the environment ministry that had fought to keep the tax.
Schiphol Group, which operates Amsterdam Schiphol, Eindhoven, Rotterdam and Lelystad airports, said it had been hit by a strong decline in traffic and increasing international competition, and recently announced cuts in its work force of 10-25% by the end of next year. Schiphol Airport, Europe’s fifth biggest in terms of passenger enplanements, recorded a drop of 430,000 passengers in February, a 13.7% fall against the same month a year ago. The number of locally boarding passengers fell by 17.7%. The number of transfer passengers, who were exempted from the tax, declined by 8.5%.
The airport operator along with Dutch carrier KLM had previously warned that potential passengers would try to avoid the tax by flying from airports across the border in Belgium or Germany. The Belgian Government has already abandoned a proposal to introduce a similar tax.
The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) welcomed the “enlightened” decision to lift the tax, claiming it was discriminatory in that it was only levied on passengers starting their journey in the Netherlands and exempted cargo flights and transfer passengers. It urged the governments of Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom to follow the Dutch lead in dropping airline passenger taxes.
Major low-cost operators including Ryanair, easyJet and Flybe voiced similar sentiments. “Ryanair has campaigned against high airport taxes and so called ‘eco’ taxes, which deter visitors and has cost the Dutch tourism industry millions in lost revenue,” said a spokesman for the carrier.
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