European Countries Appeal to EU For Blanket Aviation Tax

Nine European nations have appealed to the EU’s incoming Commission to abolish airline sector exemptions to commonly applied taxes. The Dutch-led coalition demanded what they call ‘aviation taxation or similar policies’ in a bid to ‘level the playing field’ across member states.

European Aviation tax
The letter calls for an EU-wide aviation tax ‘or similar’. Photo: Pxhere

The polluter pays

Nine separate European Union member states have demanded that the Commission makes it possible to apply an EU wide tax on aviation. The nations want to penalize airlines more for the emissions they produce and level the playing field between countries that do and don’t currently charge such a tax.

The coalition of nine countries signed a joint statement today, the 7th November, which compelled the incoming executive commission to implement proposals for cleaner aviation in Europe. The coalition says that aviation is ‘highly polluting’ and is currently undertaxed.

Ryanair blue sky
The coalition says aviation is under-taxed. Photo: Publicdomainpictures

The pact, which was instigated by the Dutch, was signed up to by France, Germany, Italy Luxembourg, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria and Denmark. It’s part of a yearlong effort by the new Dutch government to press airlines to pay more for the pollution they produce. They see aviation as being exempt from the principle of “the polluter pays”.


Within the statement, the coalition said,

Aviation transport connects people worldwide and is important for economic growth. At the same time, aviation has a significant impact on the environment: it causes approximately 2.5% of global CO2-emissions and it causes negative externalities, such as noise and air pollution.


Compared to most other means of transportation, aviation is not sufficiently priced. Aviation transport is exempted from excise duties, no VAT is levied on international flights, there is no coordinated ticket tax and economic instruments to curb greenhouse gas emissions can be strengthened in the aviation sector. Therefore, CO2-emissions and negative externalities are on average not sufficiently covered in the price of international airplane tickets.

We believe that more coordination on pricing of negative externalities of aviation could ensure that the polluter pays a fairer price for the use of aviation transport. To be effective and create a level playing field, we are convinced that EU coordination on this matter is the most effective for all member states.

Is an aviation tax the answer?

Aviation fuel is not currently taxed in the EU. Airline tickets that are for cross border flights are also exempt from VAT. While the coalition has stopped short of specifically calling for an aviation tax, it does clearly demand an end to these sorts of tax exemptions.

Germany, home of Lufthansa, already has an aviation tax. Photo: Lufthansa

Of course, one of the signatories of the statement already has an aviation tax in place. Germany levies its own tax on airlines, and thinks it serves as a blueprint for the wider EU to learn from. Germany’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, discussed it with Reuters, saying,

“The German aviation tax has proven itself. It can also be a model in the EU for more climate protection.”

Sweden too has an aviation tax, and the Netherlands plans to introduce one in 2020.

However, not everyone is on board with the idea. The emerging markets in central and eastern Europe vehemently oppose the idea, and Spain, whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism, is also reluctant to back a blanket tax.

The new European Commission already has plans in place for early 2020 to revise the EU Energy Taxation Directive. Whether this will impact aviation in Europe remains to be seen.


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I don’t think governments in the Eastern European countries have much appetite for a flight tax. There are 27 member states in the EU…only 9 have presented this request so far. In the Netherlands, owning a car is taxed to the hilt — in terms of a large duty on purchase price, duties on fuel, and penal road tax levels — but people still own and drive cars. So this tax is a very nice way of generating income for governments, but I doubt that it will act as much of an impediment to air travel. In the 9 countries… Read more »


It’s interesting to see that Germany is so enthusiastic about aviation tax.
If Germany really cares about the environment, it might start by introducing a speed limit on its freeways, and by taxing cars more heavily. Having cheap 6-liter V8 cars roaring around on Autobahns at 200 km/h produces a lot of emissions!


Most (if not all) EU countries also exempt agri-diesel (for use in farm machinery) from duty and VAT. Seeing as agriculture is a huge producer of emissions (CO2, but particularly methane), it might be more consistent to concurrently suggest putting a levy on agri-diesel. But that will probably lead to increased food prices, which will cost politicians votes. So, instead, aviation is chosen as an easy scapegoat 😉 An aviation fuel levy would, of course, increase the price of air cargo, and thus lead to an increase in prices of goods commonly transported by air, such as fresh produce, medicines,… Read more »

Gregg Derrett

The aviation tax in Germany is double what it is in Switzerland or France. It needs to be fixed.