Airport tax is a term that can mean a variety of different things and are, confusingly, often called by different names such as Airport Improvement Fee, Embarkation Fee, Passenger Service Charge, Airport Departure Tax or Air Passenger Duty. All of these levies are a form of airport tax. They are sometimes included in ticket prices, but in some cases you may be required to pay them when you arrive in or depart from an airport.
An airport tax is an additional charge that departing and connecting passengers must pay to an airport and can be levied by a government or airport corporation, often to fund expansion projects or upgrades. IATA defines a tax as an “impost for raising revenue for the general treasury and which will be used for general public purposes,” while a charge is raised for “specific aviation-related facilities or services.”
As of October 2010, FareCompare.com notes that taxes and fees for international flights leaving from American airports are around $60. Fares differ for direct and transit flights. Passengers on domestic flights within the United States are charged $4.50 each time they board a plane, an airport tax levied under the federal Passenger Facility Charge Program to fund security, capacity or safety projects. In order to reduce your airport tax while traveling, you need to consider a few different factors.
Choose your airports wisely
To avoid paying excessive airport taxes, you need to consider your itinerary and the places you want to visit, then plan which airports you want to land in. If you know which airports charge a tax, you can reroute your planned itinerary to avoid them.
Airport taxes vary widely. In order to lower your exposure to airport taxes, you should consider where you need to fly into and choose airports that have lower taxes. Any savings in airport taxes need to be considered against other factors such as flight costs, but all other factors being equal, regional airports tend to have lower taxes than larger hubs.
Airports that charge a tax include, but are not limited to:
Buenos Aires, Argentina Lima, Peru Bali, Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia Norwich, United Kingdom Newquay, United Kingdom Paris, France
IATA, the International Aviation Transport Authority, publishes a report which lists all taxes for international and domestic flights departing from global airports.
Take a detour
Savvy travelers are avoiding high airport taxes by detouring to a cheaper airport, according to the Telegraph. Some passengers are booking short haul economy flights to less costly hubs such as Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, and then embarking on long haul premium flights. Another way of reducing airport taxes is by traveling overland to an airport which charges lower taxes, if you have the option.
Avoid airports completely
While this option may not be the most practical, it does offer significant cost savings in terms of airport taxes. The only way to avoid airport taxes completely is to travel overland by train or bus, or take a ferry or a cruise, if you have the option to do so. For example, instead of flying from Lima to Buenos Aires, why not cross into Argentina via bus instead? You’ll get to see more of the country and gain a better travel experience. However, in some countries you may still be required to pay departure tax at the relevant border crossings or ports.
An easy way of reducing airport taxes is to choose to fly direct whenever possible. Each time you land in an airport you maybe be subject to taxes, depending on the conditions at each individual airport. Usually if your transit is less than 24 hours, you will be exempt from airport taxes; however, beware longer transits. At Hong Kong airport, if you transit overnight, you are required to pay the airport tax of approximately $50 even if you stay inside the airport.
Mix and match your airports
You can fly into and out of different airports to minimize your airport tax payments. This has the added benefit of also potentially reducing your arrival tax, where applicable. If your itinerary permits it, try to weigh up the cost and benefits of having a looped flight, for example New York-London-Paris-New York, if these three cities are on your list of places to visit. Consider also that some major cities have more than one airport – New York is served by La Guardia, John F Kennedy and Newark, while London has the option of Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick. You can mix and match the airports you arrive in or depart from to reduce your airport taxes.