What Are Airport Taxes On A Ticket? Know What You’re Paying For!

close up of boarding passAt Travelstart we always include all taxes in ticket prices, but we’ve all fallen victim to it before, a travel agent or airline telling you about some amazing fare like R3000 to London, you can’t believe your eyes until you notice the little asterisk at the end of the price pointing you to the fine print. Hidden down there, you notice “price excludes approximate taxes of R3500” and the price suddenly jumps up to R6500 – not so great any more.  What exactly are you paying for in taxes? Some people call them “airport taxes”, this is in fact a fallacy, only a very small portion of the tax goes to the airport. Let’s have a closer look:

Domestic ticket taxes

A certain ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town, return, has a fare of R1820 plus taxes totaling R875, but what do these taxes cover? Basically it is as follows:

  • R255 VAT on the ticket ( 14% of R1820 fare which the government takes)
  • R172 passenger service charge (which the airport takes)
  • R22 passenger safety charge (goes to the Civil Aviation Authority to pay for “safety promotion activities” like pilot training exams/programs)
  • and R426 fuel surcharge (this is a complicated one I’ll explain later).

International ticket taxes

A ticket to London has a fare of R3140 and taxes of a huge R2902, what is it you’re paying for here?

  • R11 passenger safety charge (as above)
  • R150 South African departure tax (to the government)
  • R198 South African passenger service charge
  • R858 British departure tax (to the government)
  • R263 British passenger service charge (to the airport)
  • and a whopping R1422 fuel surcharge.

The fuel surcharge

Information on the fuel surcharge is very hard to come by, sometimes “no longer available” or just not mentioned at all, so here is my understanding of it based on feedback from my colleagues in the travel industry.

In 2001, September 11th happened and a war began, airlines were a bit panicky about compensation they may need to pay to passengers for future attacks and began charging a security fee (war tax). Fuel had always been covered in the fare but as the wars expanded to Iraq and fuel prices began to soar, airlines were worried about it climbing even more. They bulk bought their fuel at moderately higher “future prices” – basically estimating what the price might climb to going forward.

Problem is, the fuel price didn’t go up as much as expected and they lost out. To recoup costs, a fuel surcharge was levied and coupled with the security fee – built into the fare of the ticket. The issue was then that airlines paid travel agents commission on fares, meaning they were paying commission on their surcharge and losing out extra money. To counter this many airlines removed the charge from the fare and added it to the taxes.

So that in short, according to my sources, is what you’re paying for in taxes.

Image from Angela Sabas on Flickr.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Sounds like the passengers are then paying for the stupidity of others. As travel agents, tickets often make or break great holiday deals and let’s face it, “airport taxes” is a big part of it. With the poor levels of flight services on a number of airlines and the good ones almost always full, it really makes a potential passenger weary of they are really going to get.

    • Good point Grant. Personally it seems a little underhanded what’s going on, sadly it’s the passengers who pay in the long run, into the coffers of so many with these texes.

  2. I am in a position where I won a luxury holiday from Johannesburg to Victoria falls in a facebook competition. Sounds great ….. but then the crunch. While accomodation and flights were included, the “Airport taxes” were not. It turns out that to take this four day trip it would cost me R2392 per person in airport taxes (the same taxes as payable for a trip to London except for a slightly lower “fuel surcharge’ (R912 instead of R1422). As a pensioner, I just don’t have that sort of money lying around. So there goes my wonderful win. You would think that as it was a promotional prize they could have been a little more accomodating.

  3. What would airport taxes to Sydney Australia be

    • Hi Hugn,

      Taxes for a return flight into/out of Sydney are about $100 per ticket. When you buy a ticket for most countries these taxes are already included.

  4. I have booked a 1 way ticket from Ghana to Gold Coast for a friend, $1700 thinking thats the total amount & a good deal, to find out the Airport Tax will cost another $750 but the travel agent didn`t say a word about & then told me its not his job to do so…Really this Tax should be more visible to travellers in the ticket price.

    • True,but do u mean Ghana to gold coast?..people are being harassed You are right,but did you say from Ghana to gold coast?

  5. I just looked at Qantas website and they exclude taxes. Where does one find out what they will cost and how could these be paid? Cape Town -Jhb -Sydney and return again.

    • Yes, This is all so confusing. The full price should be advertised (including taxes)
      I want to know all the details of ticket prices before booking my flight!!!

  6. Tx a lot for your guidance. Question; Pls guide on airport tax for the following destinations for round trip:
    1. New York
    2. Nepal (India)
    3. Brazil
    4. Ghana(Accra)
    5. George (Cape)

    • Hi Tu,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Airport taxes depend on the routing (which city you need to depart from as well as fly too) For this you would need to contact a Travel Agent on 0214684300 who would be able to assist in making a booking for you and giving you the breakdown of the airport taxes. These also fluctuate due to the rate of exchange and fuel surcharges.

  7. what is the code for airpotr tax ex yq- fuel charge the what will be for airport tax code

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      I am not understanding your question. If you could please rephrase and we will gladly try assist in answering your query.

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