No escape: passengers face travel tax if they want to leave country
AIR PASSENGERS taking long-haul trips abroad will be hit with a new €10 tax from the end of March next year.
And, those travelling on shorter flights to destinations under 300km will pay a lower tax of €2 per passenger in a new measure intended to boost the State coffers.
The controversial "exit tax" announced by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will be a blow to the airline industry which has suffered from high oil prices as a result of the downturn.
It will also come in the wake of an announcement by Aer Lingus that it plans to shed 1,500 jobs through a €74m cost-cutting programme.
The airline yesterday branded the tax "anti-consumer, anti-tourism and anti-business".
Ryanair said the tax may lead to a substantial reassessment of its €400m investment in Shannon.
However, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the tax would provide €95m to the Government in 2009 and €150m during operating for a full year.
Under the new Government measure each airport authority will collect the tax from the airlines and hand it over to the Revenue Commissioners from March 30, 2009.
Among those who will escape the controversial levy are passengers under two years of age, disabled passengers and assisting persons.
Transit passengers, members of crew, aircraft with less than 20 passenger seats and air services to and from Irish offshore islands will also be excluded.
Most flights within Ireland and flights to certain UK airports will pay the lower levy of €2 per passenger.
In a statement last night Aer Lingus said the tax was discriminatory and said the lower levy of €2 should have been applied to all UK destinations.
"It is clear that Aer Lingus customers will be hardest hit with this new tax compared to customers of smaller regional carriers which continue to enjoy the protection from the market through the PSO (Public Service Obligation) schemes and in this case lower taxes," said Aer Lingus Corporate Affairs Director Enda Corneille.
Ryanair, meanwhile, said it would deal a devastating blow to the recent growth in low fare traffic at Shannon.
"We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Transport to outline the devastating impact that any flat rate travel tax will have on Ryanair's low fare, loss making base at Shannon," said Ryanair Boss Michael O'Leary.