How does airport tax work

Whenever we book a flight we can see how the total cost of the ticket is made up. This includes the cost of the flight and the airport tax. However if airport tax is a tax, why is it different for different airlines and for different airports?

What is airport tax

Airport tax is generally defined as a ‘fee’ charged by various airports. This fee is charged to the airlines, which pass it along to each passenger and typically include it in the price of the ticket. The airport then uses this fee to assist them with maintaining and upgrading the particular airport. There is also an amount paid to SARS, and some to a non-profit company jointly owned by all the airlines to assist with baggage control. However an additional amount is included in the ‘airport tax’ category, which is a discretionary fee call a fuel levy. This fuel levy actually makes up the majority of the airport tax.

The reason why it is bundled in with airport tax and not given its own section is because when it was implemented (following highly volatile petrol prices) the system was not designed to hold any additional categories, and so it was merely added as a tax in with the current airport tax. At least that’s what the airlines are saying. The issue with this is that it has been incorrectly classified as a tax, which makes it sound like it is a necessary evil that passengers have to pay, whereas it is actually a discretionary amount that each airline can set.
Further, as fuel prices have dropped, the fuel levy bundled into these airport taxes has actually increased on some airlines.

This shows that most of the fuel levy that we as passengers pay, is actually pure profit going to the airlines. By bundling it with the airport tax, these airlines are able to publicise very cheap prices, which means that the true cost of the flight is only revealed at the end of the booking process. By that stage most people are already committed to buying the ticket, and by called it a tax, people feel that they have to pay this anyways. This is all blatantly misleading.