What I still *love* about US airlines…

I booked a one-way ticket to Germany for my mom for next week in Lufthansa first class using my United miles. I couldn’t help but crack a smile when the agent asked “and how did you want to pay for the $2.50 in taxes?” No, European flyers, I’m not off by a few decimal points.

It’s nice when a reward ticket actually feels like a “reward.”

Comments

  1. Yup – since most of the taxes are generated from the European side. I booked 2 one-ways to LHR in first class. US outbound is $5.00 total for 2, the return is $474 per PERSON on BA (vs. about $275 on AA, UA, or LH).

  2. As an airline employee, I can really see how much customers get gouged by government taxes. I pay a small fee when I non-rev on airlines other than my own. That fee doubles (and sometimes triples) if that flight originates in Canada or Europe.

  3. Call me a hypocrite as I have flown more than 100,000 miles this year (mainly work) but taxing flying is very good public policy, as would be a carbon tax more generally. The lack thereof can really be seen a bug, not a feature, of the US when we step back from our narrow self-interest and look at the the interests of humanity as a whole.

  4. Adam: what’s your justification for taxing the flying public? Is it for carbon purposes? None of the egregious European taxes are used for that purpose, but rather as revenue generators for the treasury (as in the UK tax implemented by Gordon Brown).

    Why is it good public policy? Are you arguing for a more progressive tax policy in general? If so, wouldn’t it be a better policy to actually make income tax more progressive, rather than to use flying as a non-perfect substitute that overly targets more well-to-do individuals who happen to fly?

  5. @ Adam

    Totally agree with Rich, it would be one thing if these taxes were explicitly earmarked for environmental policies, but these taxes are just regular taxes. No one is going to think twice about flying because of these taxes (especially since they are included towards the end of the purchasing process) it just is an easy way to target people who have no other choice and hit them up for money.

  6. Well, then, why NOT pick flying as a way to raise tax revenue? It’s just like the Europeans’ attitude towards taxing gasoline. Tax it like crazy and get the people to make the choice. And, in the process, increase tax revenues and provide the wherewithal for some significant social services AND infrastructure AND mass transit. Not a lot of aimless joyriding or idiotic purchases of V8 SUVs going on in Europe, and that’s a good thing, especially with a non-renewable resource. Who cares if even a cent of the tax goes to some sort of environmental remediation as @chasgoose complains? The point is to discourage. And it’s hard to implement tax policies that are strictly continental and not intercontinental. So the long-distance fliers pay up too, albeit there is no encouragement of mass transit possible for trans-Atlantic travel.

  7. The departure taxes from certain European/British cities are high. For my London trip, I am saving at least $250 by leaving from Brussels instead of LHR. As a bonus, I get to visit another city. For another European trip, I am going in/out of ZRH (instead of FRA or MUC) to save some $ in taxes. In this case, ZRH is more convenient and the base fare was cheaper so I saved twice.

  8. Sorry for not replying earlier – was on holiday. I don’t care where the money goes if it changes consumer behavior and avoids many of the deadweight costs of conventional taxation. In the US, I’d rather see a carbon tax that will help us get ahead of the curve of peak oil than a more broadly based VAT (which a lot of people are talking about), which will tax a whole load of non-harmful things. Given the amount of oil it uses, there is a pretty strong argument that air fares are too low to compensate for the negative externalities of scarce oil (especially since airlines pay hardly any gas tax anyway) and that additional taxes make for better allocation of resources.

    I agree incentives don’t affect all fares, but when I flew LHR-DUB this summer with a party of 3 we paid less than GBP100 for the tickets (including checked baggage fees) but close to GBP 300 in taxes and fees. That tax difference is enough to make people think twice about whetherits worth it to them to catch the flight.

  9. @Moose – yeah that was hyperbolic language. But it isn’t in anyone’s interests that we use our available oil so fast gas goes to $20/gallon before we figure out our alternative energy sources. And I’m prepared to believe the preponderence of scientists who believe carbon emissions contribute to global warming. A well-designed carbon tax ought to help price in those two risks, which would be in all of our long term collective interests.

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