Why Are Taxes So High on International Flights?

Those who travel internationally frequently become all too familiar with the high cost of airline tickets. Even when the ticket price you find after a tireless travel site searching seems good, it soon balloons to another stratosphere thanks to taxes and fees. International flight taxes rose steadily between 1990 and 2010 for a number of reasons. While some of these reasons make perfect sense, that won't make paying them hurt any less.

Multiple Taxes

The extra costs on each international ticket consist of several combined charges all listed as taxes. Ticket excise and flight segment taxes are assessed on every one of them, even if they're listed as fees. That means they pay for specific services rather than adding to the general till. Examples are the arrival, customs and security fees added to the base fare for all international flights.

Foreign Taxes

When you travel overseas, you're subject to United States government imposed taxes and fees. The nation you visit adds its own when you return. This double-charge can increase flight taxes tremendously, and it's the reason that international flights to some destinations are higher than others. Most countries also hit foreigners with a "departure tax," which usually shows up in the airline ticket.

Good Causes

The taxes you pay for international flights may not even be related to the ticket. For example, in 2009 the French government started adding a surtax to every international flight to assist African medical and developmental aid. The charge ranged from a few dollars up to 40euro (around $52 as of May, 2013).


In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, America imposed a security tax of $2.50 for all flights. The tax, which was still in place as of May of 2013, covers the costs of increased security. The government of Israel saw the impact its high anti-terrorism security taxes had on the national airline. In 2013, it decided to pay 97.5 percent of security costs for all international El Al flights to help promote tourism.

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About the Author

Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.