Should private jets pay more fuel taxes?

Should private jet owners pay more taxes on aviation fuel? Controversially, this is what some authorities are considering.

The pandemic has led to a dramatic reduction in air travel from which the aviation industry as a whole has yet to fully recover. At the same time, we briefly saw a reduction in protests against air travel, which was not surprising. But these are not the only effects of the pandemic related to aviation.

In 2020, we also saw a dramatic increase in demand for business jets, as those who could afford them sought an alternative to commercial air travel. So, with private jets attracting more attention, calls to change the levels of taxation affecting them may be unavoidable in some places.

In recent months, we have seen other objections to air travel, such as those on short-haul flights. Some argue that if trains can make a trip between two cities in a specific amount of time, there should be restrictions on a flight covering the same route. But arguably, business jets are a bigger problem.

Photo: Adrian Pingstone

Fuel tax, private jets and efficiency

While airlines and aircraft manufacturers protest that planes are now 15-20% more efficient than the previous generation, other modes of air travel may have received less attention. The most common way to look at the efficiency of aircraft is their economy per seat. But if we apply the same logic to business jets, these per-seat savings would seem very unfavorable.

Calls for an increase in taxation on private jets have particularly multiplied in France this summer. This was mainly because some Twitter users started following the flights of these jets owned by French billionaires. The development came after another Twitter user started posting flight information for the private jets of Elon Musk and other billionaires.

Should private jets pay more fuel taxes?

Picture: Embraer

So now, according to reports, French authorities are considering aligning the fuel tax that private jet owners pay with that of car fuel. In case you didn’t know, in much of the world aviation fuel is cheaper than gasoline or diesel, mainly because it’s in a different tax bracket.

How the French authorities would implement this private jet tax change could be difficult. Many private jets are run by commercial organizations, with flights often being charters. And beyond these jets and airliners, there are other users of jet fuel, like smaller planes with piston engines. Even airport vehicles often use Jet-A or Jet-A1 instead of diesel.

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