Passengers, low cost airlines pillory new European aviation taxes

The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) has strongly criticised plans by the Dutch government to impose a €25 (£17, $35) tax on all air passengers leaving airports in the Netherlands and called on travellers to sign an online petition against it.

A £3 (€4.50, $6) fee payable at Norwich Airport before passengers can proceed into the departure lounge has also come under fire. While Britain's Civil Aviation Authority controls how much airports are permitted to charge travellers at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester airports, other UK airports are permitted to charge fees as they see fit.

ELFAA secretary general John Hanlon said that the proposed Dutch levy is a cheap tax grab on ordinary citizens. If the Dutch government was really serious about the environment, he said, it should insist that all airlines to deliver the kind of environmental efficiency that low fares airlines offer, across all sectors of industry.

He said the tax would hurt the Dutch economy, especially its aviation and travel industry. The proposed tax applies only to flights originating in Holland, not on transit passengers.

Norwich Airport authorities say the charge, introduced this April, will go towards development. It said such fees are usually concealed in the cost of airfare. Passengers who don't want to pay the charge for airport maintenance can take flights from other airports, they said.

But most will prefer to shell out the relatively smaller sum, rather than travel further to take their flights. A survey by Holidays Direct last week revealed that airport location is almost as important to passengers as the price of their flight. A tax of £3 is unlikely to deter fliers, given the fact that the airport offers flights to the Balearics, the Greek islands and the Caribbean.