Delegates back ‘green tax’ on Europe travel
July 13, 2006
To keep Europe greener, travelers may have to shell out more green.
The European Parliament voted last week to adopt a proposal that, if implemented, could double the cost of millions of bargain airline flights by making passengers pay for the environmental impact of their travels.
The delegates from the parliament’s 25 member nations voted 439-74, with 102 abstentions, for immediate introduction of a new “green” tax on jet fuel for flights within the European Union nations. The tax could cost as much as $100 per ticket, and would be assessed on the return leg of a trip.
But don’t worry about emptying your wallet just yet.
The parliament’s votes are nonbinding, and the legislation would have to be prepared by the European Commission and voted on by the 25 countries’ transportation ministers before taking effect, according to Thomas Dudrap, a press officer for the parliament.
That probably won’t happen in the next five years, Dudrap said in a telephone interview from Brussels, Belgium.
A $100 tax on each airline ticket probably wouldn’t hurt the travel business, according to one Germany-based travel agency.
“They have the right to do it. If people need to fly, they will,” said Daniela Reines-Santiago, supervisor of the Ramstein office of ABC Travel Service. “Some people might think twice, but I don’t think (the green tax) will hurt us too much.”
Reines-Santiago said most of her customers go for package deals with tour companies which include airfare and hotel costs, and that the deals make prices less taxing.
The $100 levy has caught the attention of the discount airlines in Europe, which routinely offer flights for less than 100 euros.
On its Web site, discount flyer easyJet said the vote “would do nothing to encourage better environmental performance of airlines, but focuses … on additional taxes. However, taxes would simply create revenue for the government but do nothing to help the environment.”
Some servicemembers in Germany and Italy say the tax would make them think twice about air travel.
Kim Lowman, who was visiting Naples, Italy, with her husband last week from Portugal said that an increase in airfares by up to $100 could affect her travel plans.
“It would hinder it a little, but not stop it,” she said. “We wouldn’t travel as frequently, but we’d still travel.”
As a family of four, the extra costs would add up, Lowman said. “That would be a lot. It’s a lot for a family. Maybe we’ll turn to the rails.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Cesar Feliz said the extra charge would definitely change his travel plans.
“Absolutely,” he said. “One reason is that (normal) prices are so cheap to fly to Germany, to France … I also fly with my wife and two kids — it’s not just me.”
“If they raised prices, I’d definitely drive. The taxes are already high enough as it is,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos Heron of Bamberg. While admitting that the only real air travel he’s done in Europe has been stopping on his way to and from the Middle East, Heron said if the cost of bargain airfare was no longer a bargain, he’d simply rule out flying.
The proposed green tax would be levied on all flights leaving any EU airport, but the tax, if applied, will most likely be limited to intra-EU flights to avoid legal hassles from the U.S. and others, according to a report in the London Times.
Stripes reporter Robin Hoecker contributed to this report.