Michael O’Leary objects to ‘f**king Dutch people telling us to pay more taxes’
Airlines lobby against increase in EU aviation tax
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary is opposed to increase in aviation tax. Photograph: Collins Photo Agency
Leading European airlines on Tuesday lobbied the European Commission against the prospect of increased taxation of air travel.
Leading the delegation from Airlines 4 Europe (A4E) to meet Romanian transport commissioner Adina-Ioana Valean was the group’s chairman, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair. On his way in he said “the last thing we need is a bunch of f**king Dutch people telling us to pay more taxes”.
Asked for a comment, a commission spokesman said that, in his experience, the best way to deal with Mr O’Leary “was not to respond”.
Mr O’Leary appears to have been alluding to a joint statement on Monday signed by nine member states led by the Dutch, urging the new commission to tax airline flights. They insist that “aviation is not sufficiently priced” compared to other transport modes and that “we are convinced that EU co-ordination on this matter is the most effective for all member states”.
Mr O’Leary deplored what he called discrimination against those for whom direct road and rail transport, or indeed cycling direct to Brussels, are not options.
The commission will publish its much-flagged climate package, a “Green Deal” on Wednesday. It is expected to contain proposals for taxation of airline fuel to reduce demand for flights.
Following what they described as a productive meeting with the commissioner, A4E, which represented the 15 largest airlines in Europe representing 70 per cent of traffic, insisted that the airline industry was already a heavy contributor to EU environmental taxes – to the tune of some €5 billion a year.
They were committed to reducing emissions but airlines only contributed 2 per cent of these compared to 4 per cent from the marine sector, Mr O’Leary said.
He said the industry was engaged in a €170 billion investment programme in planes that would reduce consumption of fuel by over 20 per cent. They had already reduced fuel consumption per passenger mile by some 24 per cent.
Instead of increasing disincentives to the industry, he said the commission should instead tackle the failure of its Single European Sky initiative to integrate air traffic management. That alone could save 10 per cent in CO2 emissions, he claimed.
“Aviation tax does nothing for the environment,” Mr O’Leary said. “It is just a tax grab by governments” in favour of rich people. One way of addressing the problem, he said, was to ban business and first classes which were a grossly inefficient use of space for the wealthy and civil servants.