Airport Tax: What it is and How it Works

What Is an Airport Tax?

An airport tax is a tax levied on passengers for passing through an airport. The tax is generally imposed for the use of the airport and is one of a number of taxes that are typically included in the price of an airline ticket. Revenue from airport taxes is used for facility maintenance.

Key Takeaways

  • An airport tax is a tax levied on passengers for passing through an airport and is usually included in the price of an airline ticket.
  • The taxes that airports charge are used to pay for the operation and maintenance of the airport.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifies airport taxes as user fees as the funds collected do not flow back to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Depending on the airport, airlines are charged a single fee for landing, which includes check-in facilities and gate use, or they charge the fees separately.
  • In the U.S., commercial and general aviation taxes include a passenger ticket tax, a flight segment tax, a frequent flyer tax, an international departure tax, an international arrival tax, a jet fuel tax, and a passenger facility charge.
  • The countries with the highest airport taxes include the United States, the United Kingdom, Fiji, Australia, Germany, and Austria.

Understanding an Airport Tax

Airport taxes are charged to fund the construction, maintenance, and administration of airports and airway systems. For this reason, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) describes these taxes as user fees because the funds generated do not flow back to the general treasury. Often, the bulk of the fee is called the landing fee, paid by the aircraft and transferred to the customer via the price of the traveler’s online ticket, to land at a specific airport.

In this case, the airline will forward the fee to the proper agency. Some airports charge a single fee for landing and provide gates and check-in facilities as part of that fee. Other airports will charge a lower fee for landing but will charge airlines for the use of gates and check-in facilities. These fees will vary greatly depending on the popularity of the airport, with congested airports charging premium prices due to higher demand, and less popular airports charging less because demand is not as high. General aviation airports do not charge landing fees.

Airport Tax Charges

Airport taxes are usually charged to passengers departing from or connecting through an airport. Some airports do not levy these fees on connecting passengers who do not leave the airport or passengers who have a connecting flight that is within a specific timeframe from the time of arrival.

The amount of airport tax levied on a passenger depends on a number of factors, most prominently whether the flight is a domestic or international one. International flights typically carry a higher airport tax. In the U.S., international arrival and departure taxes are $19.10 in 2021 for any international air transportation starting or ending in the U.S. except for transportation from the Continental U.S. from a city within the 225-mile buffer zone.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Domestic passenger tax that applies to journeys that begin and end in the U.S. or the 225-mile buffer that extends into Canada or Mexico is $4.30, as of 2021. This also includes a 7.5% excise tax imposed on all domestic flights. Also, taxes can range in rates depending on several other factors, such as the size of the plane and time of day.

Countries and Airport Taxes

Depending on where you book your flight and the above-mentioned details, the airport tax will vary, and, therefore, the cost of your ticket. The countries with the highest airport taxes include the United States, the United Kingdom, Fiji, Australia, Germany, and Austria.

Austria has an average airport tax of $35 while Fiji has an average airport tax of $198. Therefore, flying in and out of Fiji is going to cost you a lot more than flying in and out of Austria. The U.S. has an average airport tax of $40, the Netherlands, $44, Australia, $55, and Germany, $42.

The only real way to reduce paying airport taxes is to fly in and out of smaller airports. Smaller airports will have lower tax-associated costs and are found around most major cities. That being said, many of these airports provided limited flight options that may not suit your traveling needs.

Article Sources
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  1. Airlines for America. "U.S. Government-Imposed Taxes on Air Transportation." Accessed June 15, 2021.

  2. "Airport Taxes Explained." Accessed June 15, 2021.

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