'Senseless' - International airline body against departure-tax increase
Published: Friday | October 2, 2009
The Government has come under fire from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is objecting to the unexpected increase in departure tax that became effective yesterday.
Strongly protesting the decision, the association which represents some 230 airlines worldwide, including national carrier Air Jamaica, stated in a letter to the commissioner of customs, Danville Walker, and copied to Finance Minister Audley Shaw that any fee increase for either airlines or passengers is both unwarranted and unjustified.
"The international airline industry has in the past expressed its concern regarding the costs of doing business in Jamaica," said IATA's Cyriel Kronenburg.
"We do not share the devaluation justification that is the basis of this increase as the collected revenue is in the same currency as the majority of the costs."
He argued that the fee increase, without any opportunity for stakeholders to review and challenge, was "illogical".
No position to comply
The IATA official warned that besides the justification of the fee, international airlines would not have been in a position to comply with the fee increase by yesterday's deadline as dictated by the announcement.
"The fees on the majority of airline tickets sold for travel past the October 1 implementation date have already been collected," he said. "Further, three days is certainly not adequate time for airlines to change their existing systems to collect this additional fee."
Shaw announced Tuesday night that departure tax would be increased from $1,000 to $1,800.
In responding to the concerns raised by IATA, Commissioner of Customs Danville Walker told The Gleaner last night that a manual system would be put in place today through which individuals who are travelling will have to pay the difference of $800.
"We have to put in place a manual system tomorrow (today) where persons who are leaving the island will pay the departure tax," he said.
Walker said the manual system would have to suffice until the computing system is installed. He added that computing system would have to be sourced from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and would take 30 days.
Long list of reasons
According to the IATA official, the hike in departure tax and other suggested increases in taxes and fees to passengers that have been floated recently would merely add to a long list of reasons passengers will choose not to fly to Jamaica and will have an adverse effect on the tourist industry.
Criticising the Government, he accused the administration of being contradictory.
"The increase is in complete contradiction to what the Jamaican Government has argued with its UK counterparts, where the implementation of the Air Passenger Duty has resulted in significant decline of traffic to and from the Caribbean, which was heavily protested by Caribbean governments," he argued, adding that recently the Dutch government eliminated its passenger tax for similar reasons.
Kronenburg urged the Government to abandon the proposal to implement the fee increase and said he looked forward to the opportunity to actively engage with it and local airline associations on identifying the proper way to stimulate traffic and cover costs.