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Ecotax on air travel: a real ecological contribution or just an additional source of income for the State?

After much debate in parliament on the Mobility Law adopted on 18 June, the government has finally come up with a solution. It comes in the form of an ecotax on airline tickets, which the airline industry is not pleased with, and feels wronged.

A few days after the end of the Paris Air Show, plane bashing, brought on by "Flygskam" - the Swedish neologism for the shame of flying-, finally got the better of air transport. 93 members of parliament signed an article in Le Journal du Dimanche in defense of this mode of transport, perceived as "a vital necessity" being "the only way for some of our territories to avoid deadly isolation", but this was not enough to stop the second Ecological Defence Council, chaired by Emmanuel Macron, from taking measures to restrict the latter.

This "eco-contribution", announced by the Minister of Transport Elisabeth Borne, will range from €1.50 to €18 and will only apply to flights departing from French airports. For national and domestic flights (European territory) tickets will be taxed an additional €1.50 on the final price in economy class, or €9.00 in business class. For long-haul flights or flights outside the EU area, the amount will be €3.00 in coach class and €18.00 in business class. Some exceptions: flights to Corsica and French overseas territories, as well as flights connecting in France, will be exempt.

This solution is estimated to generate a total of €180 million per year. It should be reinvested in the deployment of more environmentally friendly solutions, starting with the rail transport, thereby partly offsetting the €500 million needed by the Mobility Orientation Law adopted in mid-June to allow, among other things, the renovation of railway tracks.

As a result, in 2020, the year it will go into effect, this "ecotax" will join the ranks of other taxes and contributions already applied to flights departing from French airports. The Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) views this is a counter-productive action that will above all penalize the competitiveness of airports and the attractiveness of regions in France: "Nothing in the conclusions of the Assises and in the national air transport strategy for 2025 suggested such a measure. This new tax is economic and environmental nonsense. The measure is intended only to fill the coffers of the AFITF [Agence de financement des infrastructures de transport de France] and will not help the sector make its ecological transition. Improved environmental performance of air transport must be sought above all in air transport itself and not in punitive taxation." (Thomas Juin, President of the UAF)

The first player to be affected by this measure, Air France, of which " 50% of its activity is carried out from France ", is also reacting. The airline estimates that its impact "would represent an additional cost of more than 60 million euros per year for the Air France group. This is the equivalent of the measures taken as part of the Assises du Transport Aérien, which were intended to strengthen the competitiveness of the French banner".

The Assises (which closed on March 8, 2019) announced an estimated €118 million in tax relief to strengthen the competitiveness of the air transport sector in France. This measure is therefore considered counterproductive, since, as Alain Battisti (President of the Fédération nationale de l'aviation marchande - FNAM) put it, "we are being taken back what we were given". He also points out that there was initially talk of adopting a Europe-wide tax "in order to avoid excessive distortions of intra-European competition".

In any case, the question is whether or not this will have repercussions on France as a destination, and to a lesser extent, on the various regions in France. As Georges Panayotis (Founder of Hospitality On) says, "One thing is certain, making a destination less competitive through taxes and other measures will not sustainably address the real problems". He also points out that accessibility is essential for any destination that wants to be attractive: "If tourism in France and Europe is to thrive, we must make travel increasingly accessible, as has been done over the past 40 years with the development of competition in transport and the emergence of new solutions."

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