Benelux Special – Part 1
The flight tax that the Dutch government is planning to introduce will not improve the environmental impact of flying, both the Dutch logistic stakeholders and TIACA claim. It will provide another incentive for cargo companies to take their business elsewhere, says airfreight consultant Rogier Spoel of the entrepreneurs’ association evofenedex.
The Dutch government hopes to cash in some € 200 to € 220 million from the scheme. For passenger flights, the tax is calculated at € 7 per departing passenger, with the exception of transit
passengers. Cargo carriers, however, would have to pay € 3.85 per ton MTOW for the highest noise category, and € 1.925 for the lowest category.
This is a very imbalanced piece of legislation, says Mr Spoel. “For passenger flights, it is the end user of the airline service who has to pay, whereas in the cargo industry it is the operator. The heaviest aircraft, such as the B747-8 would pay more for taxes than for airport fees. An A380, taking a lot of transit passengers, would pay a lot less.”
On top of the on-going slot scarcity problem, the proposed rule would further distort the level playing field for Amsterdam Schiphol, compared to the airports in other European countries. Today, some form of aviation tax has been introduced in the UK, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, and Austria, but only for passengers.
“The motivation behind the Dutch scheme is sustainability,” says Mr Spoel, “which we certainly do not oppose. We are, however, in favor of a pan-European taxation, together with the reimbursement of the proceeds of the tax to sustainability measures. In its present form, the proceeds are supposed to go straight into the treasury.”
Just another form of taxation
The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) is very aware of the environmental impact of air cargo, says its Chairman, Steven Polmans, when asked for a reaction to the Dutch tax plans by CFG. “That is the reason why we launched a sustainability program last year. Even if aviation has set an enormous step forward, there is still room for improvement. At the same time, we are a transport mode responding to a certain need, for which there is no alternative at the moment,” says the TIACA helmsman.
He went on to say: “That is why a lot of these taxes fail to achieve their objectives. Implementing them on an individual base, will most easily lead to an operational shift and unfair competition. If, on top of that, it is also unclear what the money will be used for, or how it will be invested, it becomes a missed opportunity. In that case, we speak of just another form of taxation, rather than a contribution to a better environment.”
KLM joins the opposition
The proposed legislation has yet to pass the two chambers of the Dutch parliament and is temporarily held up by the resignation of the responsible Secretary of State, Menno Snel. A successor has not yet been appointed.
The opposition to the proposed tax is a joint initiative of evofenedex, the organization of logistic companies ‘Transport & Logistiek Nederland’ (TLN), and the umbrella organization Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN). Even if belly cargo will remain exempted from the scheme, the alliance also enjoys the support of KLM, which will have to include the tax in its ticket prices. In that respect too, the company would stand out unfavorably against its competitors.
According to Mr Spoel, Schiphol Airport has also lobbied intensely to keep cargo out of the tax scheme. “However, D66 (the party to which Mr Snel belongs, MS) was very keen on including cargo.”
In his New Year’s message, Royal Schiphol Group CEO & President, Dick Benschop, demanded that extra attention be given to the cargo sector. “The volumes have decreased by 9% in 2019, which is due to the decrease of the number of full freighter flights.”
“We see this all over Europe, reflecting the geopolitical impact on commerce. At Schiphol, this is much stronger. Now that the 500,000 movements cap has been reached, the full freighters pull the short straw.” This is a critical situation that needs to be addressed, exclaimed Mr Benschop.
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
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