Taxes, Fees, Charges Hamper Africa’s Air Travel

Astronomical airport charges, taxes, and all other sundry fees are hampering air travel in Africa, according to Asky Airlines Commercial Director, Mr. Nowel Ngala.

He stated this in Lagos over the weekend, noting that those charges and others had led to the high cost of air travel in the region. He urged African governments to come together with a view to harmonising fares and charges.

His words: “This issue of fees and charges keep on coming up and it is important for our travelers to understand that if you take your ticket, almost 50 percent of your ticket costs, the total goes on taxes, charges, and fees from government, airports, local governments.

From left: Mobolaji Simon, Country Manager, Asky, Mr. Nowel Ngala, Commercial Director, ASKY Airlines, and Adenike Macaulay, Chief Commercial Officer, Wakanow

“If you take the average in West Africa or in most of the countries in Africa, you see government tax, and infrastructure tax, the list keeps going. “These are not understood by the travelers. They think airlines are overtaxing. The net fare that comes to the airline is very minimal to take care of all the operational costs, handling, over-flight permit, catering, and others.

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“Our request is as a regional institution should be able to come together and let us harmonise. “It is our suggestion that these taxes instead of each country coming up with its own taxes. There is so much documented evidence that has been done to demonstrate that the reduction of these taxes and charges will make travel increase and it is going to be beneficial to service providers, airlines, and all the actors in the aviation industry,” he added.

The Air transport industry is still non-profitable in the continent; most African citizens cannot afford passenger air tickets. African airlines face several challenges, including the high level of taxes, fees, and charges. In fact, air transport is perceived as a luxury service across the continent.

Then, governments, airports, and service providers tend to overcharge airlines; despite the fact that many of them are struggling to survive. Tourists travel by air to and from Africa. Traders undertake their long-distance journeys by air. Intra-Africa trade is exceptionally low (15.2 percent for the period 2015 -2017, compared to 50 percent and 64 percent within Asia and Europe respectively).

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According to experts, air transport is vital in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (Af- CTA) to develop trade among African states. Figures from World Travel and Tourism Council indicate that western and central Africa are the most expensive regions in terms of passenger charges with an average of $100 and $110 respectively for international travel.

The region where the passenger pays the lowest amount of taxes and fees is Northern Africa, with an average of $26.27. The aviation industry has a particular fiscal regime. According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations, fuel, which represents at least 24.7 percent (IATA WATS 2019) of African airlines’ operational costs, should not be taxable.

However, many other specific taxes and fees are applied to passengers. Various groups of countries in Africa have adopted preferential taxes and fee rates for travel among their members. ECOWAS and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).

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Comparison with neighbouring regions shows that while the average amount of passengers paid taxes and fees in Africa is $64, passengers are charged $30.23 in Europe and $29.65 in the Middle East despite the fact that traffic is much more significant in these regions.

Apart from passenger taxes that are levied directly on the ticket, airlines have to face many other charges related to their operations at the airport level.

Some of them are landing, noise, parking,  Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE),  Jetway charge, passenger bus,  lighting, counter, fire fighting and prevention, check-in, ground power unit, ground handling, follow-me, hangar, housing, terminal, towing and push-back among others.

Wole Shadare