Eoghan Corry: Proposal to tax jet fuel 'is a non-runner'

European Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra has said it is 'bizarre' that we tax what we eat and earn but not aviation fuel
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.48 26 Feb 2024

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Eoghan Corry: Proposal to tax...

Eoghan Corry: Proposal to tax jet fuel 'is a non-runner'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.48 26 Feb 2024

Share this article

A suggestion of a tax on jet fuel is a 'non-runner' as every country in the world would need to sign up to it.

European Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, has said it is 'bizarre' that we tax what we eat and earn but not aviation fuel.

The Dutch politician, who previously held commercial positions at Shell, has said he is "fully committed" to promoting support for a global aviation tax in Europe and around the world.


Aircraft fuel, other than that used in private pleasure-flying, is exempt from excise duty; however, EU states can tax aviation fuel for domestic flights and, by means of bilateral agreements, fuel used in intra-EU flights.

Friends of the Earth CEO Oisin Coughlan told Newstalk Breakfast the current position is a very unfair one.

"We tax all other forms of fuel for cars and shipping and all our fuels that we buy in our homes and businesses," he said.

"But we don't tax jet fuel; it's an artifact of an international deal from years ago.

"It doesn't make sense, it isn't fair.

"At the very least there should be a level playing field between all these forms of polluting transports as we try to shift away from fossil fuels."

'Unanimity by 27 member states'

Mr Coughlan said the EU has tried to move in this area before.

"There has been an effort inside the European Union over the last couple of years to introduce a tax inside Europe at least on aviation fuel," he said.

"It stalled last year because it requires unanimity among all 27 member states, because it's a tax matter, and they couldn't get it over the line".

Editor of Travel Extra Eoghan Corry told the show he doesn't think EU states will agree on this issue.

"I don't it'll happen, I think it's a non-runner," he said.

"It means unravelling a major international convention, the Chicago Agreement [of] 1944, a big deal to get 200 airlines from around the world and the governments to to sign up.

"Since it's been signed - there's nothing new about this - there's always been countries who want to shake down the aviation industry for money.

"What they are looking at is unravelling an agreement which has all sorts of other elements in it, including a very important safety element."

'Other taxes'

Mr Corry said governments have been 'happily' taxing other aspects of aviation instead.

"33% of the airfare you pay at the moment goes on tax," he said.

"In some instances, for a sale fare, the airline is getting a fraction of what the governments are getting on both sides in taxes.

"The taxing of fuel is a little bit of a red herring.

"If you're going to unravel a major international agreement like the Chicago Convention be careful of what comes round and hits you on the back of the head".

Mr Coughlan said taxes on aviation are variable depending on where you are, noting that the Chicago Convention pre-dates current climate agreements.

Mr Corry added that any change would have to be signed by all countries in the convention as it is a world-wide agreement.

Listen back here:

Main image: Fuelling a commercial aircraft with aviation fuel, 31-12-08. Image: GmbH & Co. KG / Alamy

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Aviation Fuel Chicago Agreement Eoghan Corry European Commissioner For Climate Action Friends Of The Earth Jet Fuel Oisin Coughlan Wopke Hoekstra

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