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The air transport industry pays (‘user charges’) to cover the costs of the infrastructure it uses for both airport operations and air traffic management (for example runways, airport terminals, air traffic control). It is often asserted that airlines are under-taxed relative to other modes as, in many instances, they do not pay fuel duties or ticket taxes on their international services. However, according to the European Commission’s UNITE data comparing rail and aviation in terms of fiscal net contribution, aviation provides a net surplus in Germany, France and the United Kingdom, whilst both rail and light rail are fully reliant on massive and continuous annual public subsidies in order to cover their continued deficit scores.

A study produced by ERA in 2011 showed that the yearly average amount of subsidies to the rail sector in Europe in 2007-2009 was €41.85 billion, which represents almost 120 times more than the amount of state aid granted to air transport (€338 million).

Even if aviation’s fuel and VAT exemptions are considered as ‘subsidies’, rail’s share of subsidy in the period 2007-2009 is very high compared to the total share of passenger transport volume (27% versus 6%). Conversely, air’s share of subsidies is lower than the share of passenger transport (10% versus 12%).

ERA’s Current Position

ERA opposes the on-going trend of proliferation of aviation taxes across Europe, especially when they are misleadingly presented as environmental levies.

ERA welcomed the EU Aviation Summit “Bruges Declaration” (October 2010) that recommended EU Member States to avoid additional burdens, such as taxes on aviation, in order to prevent any negative impact on the aviation industry competitiveness.

All revenues generated from taxes on aviation should be earmarked and re-invested back into the industry in order to develop its infrastructure and operations, to finance research and development initiatives and, ultimately, to help aviation reducing and mitigating its emissions through new and more efficient technology. National taxes have a net negative effect on States’ tourism, mobility and the overall economy, as clearly demonstrated by various examples in Europe (Danish Transportation Tax; Dutch Government Departure Tax; Irish Air Travel Tax to mention a few).

The latest tax imposed on aviation is the so called “Regional Aircraft Noise Tax” (IRESA), adopted by the regional authorities of some of the most congested Italian airports and applicable to all landings and take-offs at and from airports situated in the Regions’ territory (scheduled or non-scheduled).


There is no update expected on this subject at this time.

Useful links

ERA presentation on Air-Rail Study - September 2011:


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