Brussels Airlines CEO Peter Gerber has expressed his frustration about the implementation of a new passenger tax that will affect all departing flights from Belgium.
The Belgian Embarkation Tax, which comes into effect from April 1, was first proposed by the county’s government last October on distances of less than 500 km in order to encourage alternatives. However, it will now apply to all flights, including passengers traveling by private plane or helicopter.
For destinations less than 500 km away from the airport of departure, the levy will be €10. Passengers who fly to a destination more than 500 km away will have to pay an extra €2, and €4 for flights outside of Europe.
“It’s a disappointing development for various reasons,” Gerber told Routes. “We understand that a lot of countries in Europe have higher taxes, but this is being introduced during what is still the worst crisis the aviation industry has ever experienced.”
Brussels Airlines—alongside TUI, Air Belgium and Belgium’s Air Transport Association—previously claimed that the government has failed to take the input of the Belgian airlines into consideration.
The carriers also expressed “serious concerns” about the implementation of the tax. They had asked for a starting date based on the date of reservation, and not the date of the flight as taxes cannot be charged retroactively to customers who have already booked their flights before April 1.
As Belgium’s government only confirmed the tax’s introduction on March 24, Gerber said the move goes against the recommendations of ICAO, which advises a timeline of at least four months to update the booking systems and inform passengers. He added the handling of the levy has “not been done in a professional way” and represents a €5 million burden for the industry.
IATA has also criticized the timing of the Belgian Embarkation Tax, saying the introduction at “such short notice is a blow to airlines which are slowly recovering from the pandemic.”
Earlier this week, it was reported that Belgium’s neighbor the Netherlands is proposing to triple its flight tax from €8 to €24 for departing passengers.
A full interview with Brussels Airlines CEO Peter Gerber will feature in the May issue of Routes magazine.