The airline tax was approved in plenary Thursday evening. The airline will have to pay tax for each passenger departing from Belgian territory with a “plane” – a passenger plane, a private plane and a helicopter. The amount varies from 2 to 10 euros, depending on the flight distance.
In principle, this tax will be passed on to passengers, but the three airlines say they cannot retroactively impose it on passengers who have already booked a flight from April 1. For these passengers, they will have to pay taxes themselves. In their opinion, it comes to a total of 5 million euros. And that at a time when the sector is “trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the most expensive and worst crisis in its history,” it seems so.
In addition, the three companies said the tax does not have a positive impact on the environment, “as money is not invested in climate progress.” “This is again money that we cannot invest in our own initiatives to move towards CO2 neutrality.”
According to Air Belgium, Brussels Airlines and TUI fly, introducing flight tax is legally debatable. They say: “It is not in line with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization of the International Civil Aviation Organization.” According to those recommendations, once approved in Parliament, there should be at least a four-month period to adapt reservation systems and inform passengers of the tax. Legal action is also “under consideration”.
The airlines also argue that they have “no comment” on the flight tax measures, Finance Minister Vincent van Bettieghem said in the House of Representatives on Thursday. “We have openly expressed our deepest concern about the modalities of tax implementation,” they say. Among other things, we requested that the departure tax start date be based on the booking date and not the flight date. This was precisely to avoid having to pay a portion out of their own pocket.
All airlines, not just Belgian, will have to pay a tax for every departing passenger from April 1. €10 per passenger (from 2 years old) for short trips. These are flights to destinations, as the crow flies, at a maximum distance of 500 kilometers. This distance can be “computed from the ARP (center, ed.) of the airport with the largest annual number of passengers in the country”, which is Brussels Airport. For medium-haul flights (more than 500 km, but within the European Economic Area, the UK or Switzerland), the tax will be 2 euros per passenger, and for long-haul flights 4 euros.
The rate is the highest for short trips, “to encourage passengers to use other modes of transportation, and to make passengers more aware of the relatively high external costs in the immediate environment (air pollution, greenhouse gases, noise, congestion) associated with short-haul trips from Belgium”, states the draft the law.
The tax will not apply, for example, to passengers carried, derivative or military flights, or flights arriving at the same airport as they depart.
Minister Van Bettieghem said in the lower house on Thursday that the tax will apply from April 1, but that airlines have until the end of May to pay this contribution for the first time.
The airline tax is part of the federal government’s small tax shift.