Air travel could become a luxury, the Asociación de Líneas Aéreas believes. / E.P.

EU's proposed fuel tax for passengers could hit tourism very hard, head of airline association warns

Javier Gándara of the Asociación de Líneas Aéreas says making passengers pay extra could mean the loss of 45 million tourists a year

EDURNE MARTÍNEZ MADRID.

A fuel tax payable by airline passengers which is currently being debated by the EU could mean the loss of 45 million tourists a year and “take us back to a time when flying was a luxury which few could afford,” the president of the ALA airline association, Javier Gándara, said this Tuesday morning, 22 November.

Speaking during the presentation of the sector’s expectations for this winter season, he said that in his opinion the government has the power to redirect the situation and replace these taxes with measures which do contribute to decarbonisation, such as sustainable airline fuel (SAF) and hydrogen or electric propulsion.

ALA will be contacting its counterparts in Portugal and Italy, countries which also rely strongly on tourism, to jointly put pressure on the EU not to charge airline passengers a fuel tax.

Looking ahead, Gándara explained that there are 4.4% more airline seats available this winter than there were in 2019, totalling 114 million between November and March. Demand increased considerably last summer, when the number of passengers was 92% of the figure three years previously, and in October the figures were almost the same as before the pandemic.

The extra airline seats which have been laid on in low season are mainly due to a significant increase in demand for the Balearic and Canary islands, he said.

Gándara said he believed that air traffic will return to pre-pandemic levels next year, although the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and inflation could have an effect. In Spain, domestic flights have recovered most from the pandemic (95% of 2019 levels), followed by European flights (85%). Intercontinental travel has recovered by 79% but some countries, such as China are still practically closed to visitors.

Spain's mask rule "nonsensical"

He also criticised the Spanish government for still insisting that masks are worn on planes, describing the rule as nonsensical. “We don’t understand why Spain is the only EU country insisting on this, and one of only a few countries in the world,” he said. He believes it distorts competition between operators and said mask wearing should become voluntary.