Airline reps say no to flight tax

26th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

26 September 2007, AMSTERDAM (dpa) - The Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands (BARIN) says a single European sky will benefit the environment more than any "eco flight tax" could possibly do.

26 September 2007

AMSTERDAM (dpa) - The Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands (BARIN) says a single European sky will benefit the environment more than any "eco flight tax" could possibly do.

Speaking with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Wednesday, BARIN spokesman Frank Allard said "borders on the ground have practically been eliminated by European Union member states, but in the air all barriers still exist."

Allard says airlines flying over the European Union are forced to deal with 25 separate divisions of airspace controlled by 25 different air control systems.

On top of that, all EU member states have their own no-fly zones - areas designated exclusively for military use.

"In the US," Allard says, "military airspace can shift to another area during the high season. These no-fly zones are flexible. But in Europe, this is not the case."

"That is why even during the high season, airlines flying from Amsterdam to London or Geneva or popular holiday destinations in southern Europe, can never fly the shortest possible route."

"Instead, they are forced to take detours continuously. A single European air space will save enormous quantities of fuel - and also save airlines billions of euros - reducing the CO2 pollution dramatically."

But, says BARIN, the way things look today, European member states are not in a hurry to take advantage of this great opportunity to reduce air pollution.

"Regrettably, a single European airspace will not be realised until 2020 at the earliest," Allard says, accusing European politicians of not being interested in taking serious measures that benefit the environment.

Calling the flight tax recently announced by the Dutch government an "eco tax" is "absolutely not true," Allard says. "It is a fake eco tax."

The new tax says that as of July 2008, all passengers departing or arriving at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport - in 2006 some 46 million - are to pay an "eco tax" of EUR 11 to EUR 45 per one way flight. The longer your flight distance, the higher the tax.

But all transit passengers - some 80,000 in 2006 - are excluded from the tax measure, as are commercial cargo flights, last year some 423,000 of the total of 440,000 flights using Schiphol airport.

BARIN, which represents all airlines flying on the Netherlands as well as the Schiphol Group, has launched a public protest against the tax proposals.

"A unique step," explains Allard, "because we usually work behind the scenes with all parties involved. But we cannot remain silent in the face of this horrific new tax measure."

During the first five days of its public protest, BARIN collected some 10,000 signatures for the petition it will present to parliament.

But the organisation is not the only one to protest the "eco flight tax."

The umbrella organisation of all travel agencies ANVR and the Dutch consumers' union Consumentenbond started their public protests in spring 2007, when the first rumours about the eco flight tax were heard.

Last week, ANVR and the Consumentenbond offered their own petitions to the government, with 40,000 and 14,000 signatories respectively.

"We do not oppose an eco tax in principle," Consumentenbond spokesman Marcel van Beusekom told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We understand something has to be done to reduce CO2 emission."

"But the current measure is simply not fair. It excludes cargo and transit passengers. In addition, the 350 million generated by this new levy is not even spent on environmental causes, but simply goes to the national budget."

This is true, the government acknowledged. Last week Finance Minister Wouter Bos said the EUR 350 million is to be used primarily to reduce unemployment.

Barin spokesman Allard said "the government claims it needs the extra EUR 350 million in tax revenue to reduce unemployment."

"But, ironically, the eco tax they propose will lead to an estimated drop of passengers of some 8 to 15 percent. This jeopardises some 12,000 jobs in the aviation industry alone!"

It is one of the reasons why BARIN argues it is better to create the single European sky as soon as possible.

"A single European sky has many advantages. Among others, it will reduce the number of control centres down to two - one headquarter and the second a back-up."

"This will enhance efficiency and reduce expenses - all of which are currently paid by the air passenger in his airport tax. In addition, it will increase air safety."

The Dutch parliament is due to debate the eco tax mid-November. Until then, BARIN, the Dutch consumer's union Consumentenbond and the ANVR umbrella organisation of all travel agencies will continue their protests.

[Copyright dpa 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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