Varadkar calls on airlines to refund €3 travel tax

AIRLINE passengers who bought advance tickets for flights later this summer should be reimbursed the €3 travel tax once its planned abolition goes ahead in July, according to a government minister.

Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Leo Varadkar called on airlines to offer refunds to any customers who bought advance tickets for flights after July 1 next.

Mr Varadkar confirmed his intention last week to abolish the controversial tax from July 1 on the basis that airlines would deliver a greater number of passengers to and from Ireland.

The minister has written to 30 airlines operating in and out of the Republic on the issue to ascertain their plans for growing passenger traffic.

He welcomed the general response from the airline industry, although he admitted one unnamed airline was “looking for more”.

It was understood to be a reference to Ryanair which has called for a dramatic reduction in airport charges in exchange for delivering an extra five million passengers over the next five years.

Mr Varadkar has promised to reduce the travel tax to zero until December 2013 when the performance of the airlines in boosting the number of flights and passengers will be assessed.

Mr Varadkar said the relevant legislation will remain in place to allow the tax to be reinstated if necessary.

The €10 travel tax for most flights was introduced by the previous government in 2009 to much opposition from travel and tourism stakeholders. It was reduced to €3 for all flights in the most recent budget last December following strong lobbying from the sector.

The Government has estimated abolition of the tax will cost the exchequer €15m this year, rising to €90m in 2012 and €105m in 2013.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said yesterday that the minister expected airlines to commit to delivering additional passengers before instigating the necessary legislative provisions to abolish the travel tax.

“There is likely to be a lead-in period to minimise the number of forward bookings affected,” said the spokesperson.


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