Tax Me Not to Fly

by MaxPower

I like to fly around. I like to think of myself as a jetsetter. But I want to do it cheap. I don’t want to spend my cash getting to a destination; I want to spend it once I get there in a nice hotel or a good restaurant.

Isn’t a vacation supposed to be enjoyable?

I know people who when traveling spend tons of cash on direct flights on expensive airlines in upgraded classes, but then ‘backpack’ around, sleeping in hostels and eating once every two days. I asked a colleague of mine who went to South America why she was flying direct on some obscure (and expensive) South American airline rather than connect a couple times in the US, and then spend three weeks in crap conditions in South American hostels *shudder*. Her response? ‘I like to treat myself at the beginning and end of my trip.’ My response? Why should you need to? Isn’t a vacation supposed to be enjoyable? From my point of view if you have to fly in cramped conditions and connect a couple times to get to your destination for 50% less than the cost of a direct flight or 100 – 200% less than a business class ticket why wouldn’t you? You won’t mind the flight there because you’ll be excited and you won’t enjoy the flight back – either way – because you are coming back to reality.

But to blow all your cash on expensive plane tickets and then stay in a one star hotel? Your insane. But this method of flying on the cheap – while getting more prevalent is getting harder as well.

A roundtrip from Edmonton to Vancouver on Westjet, staying over a weekend, booked one month in advance.

Fare: $153
Navigation, Insurance, Fuel Fee: $42
Airport Improvement Fees: $27
Security Fee: $24
GST: $17
Total Cost: $263 ($110 of that made up of taxes)

And THAT is with Westjet, the lower priced alternative to Air Canada. So Airport Improvement fees I don’t have a problem with – it’s a user pay system. Only tax the people who use the airports – fair enough. The Nav-Ins-Fuel fee bugs me a bit more, why do I have to pay a navigation fee to Nav Canada to provide navigation to the plane? Don’t my federal income taxes or the plane fare cover that? And Insurance? I understand the ramifications of Sept 11th on insurance companies but shouldn’t that be incorporated into re-insurance schemes rather than user pay? And Fuel… well fine, fuel is more expensive right now. But what really rubs me the wrong way is the Security fee. 24 bucks a roundtrip for what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The federal government is grabbing HUGE amounts of cash and has there been any security increases at the airports? No they just turn the metal detectors up higher so that a pack of GUM in my coat pocket set it off (the foil apparently).

The tax (note I call it a tax not a fee because with the word fee your insinuating you are getting something in return) is not proportional; it is levied on all fares no matter what distance. Edmonton to Calgary flights of 300 km are taxed 12 bucks a direction and ST. Johns to Vancouver flights are charges 12 bucks. So what the government is doing is making it uneconomic to fly distances where you would consider driving. People are switching to driving, bus or not travelling at all. So much so there are considerably less short-haul passengers than there were prior to the tax.

The similar tax in the US is 5 bucks a direction, and they have got air marshals on the flights, new screeners who are federally trained and are given powers similar to that of customs agents and new x-ray devices that will screen ALL baggage on ALL flights.

Maybe the fact that they are getting paid more will make them feel warm and fuzzy and won’t make me turn on my camera to make sure I don’t have a stick of C4 in there.

What did Canada get? A new bureaucracy called the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which allows screeners to get $11 bucks an hour rather than $8. How increasing screeners’ salaries will help air security I don’t know. Maybe the fact that they are getting paid more will make them feel warm and fuzzy and won’t make me turn on my camera to make sure I don’t have a stick of C4 in there. Any new technologies used to screen bags? Nope. Just last week a report came down which said mailbags are not screened for explosives at all. Great, all we need is someone to read that in the news paper, stick a bomb in a box and mail it somewhere where it will go air mail.

It is going to generate 2 billion dollars in 5 years. 2 billion dollars of taxpayers money above and beyond income tax, GST, fuel taxes, liquor tax and everything else we pay.

The federal government wants people to fly because it’s good for the economy. The government wants to attract tourists into the country. The feds want competition in the airline industry. How is collecting a two billion dollar tax going to help any of that?

All that and I didn’t even consider the fact that the Federal government is likely running a 8 – 10 billion dollar surplus for the 2002 fiscal year.

Maybe it wouldn’t piss me off so much if I could see some improvements, other than paying the pimply-faced kid who is rude to me at the X-ray machines more money.

  • Tax Me Not to Fly
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on February 1st, 2003

More from :

Other recent features: