Airline companies made profits of up to half a billion euros last year by passing on a surcharge to their customers despite an EU decision to freeze the carbon tax planned for the industry.
According to campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E), airlines brought in extra revenues of around €486 euros despite the decision taken late last year to put the brakes on the introduction of a new EU carbon tax that would have upset the global aviation industry.
EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard had promised to freeze the carbon tax for a year on flights to and from non-European nations in the hope of negotiating a global CO2 emissions deal in the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
But airlines have passed on the cost of meeting their pollution permits to passengers, despite 85% of their permits being allocated for free, says T&E.
In a statement, T&E said: “The ‘stopping of the clock’ proposal turns revenues raised by airlines to cover the costs of their CO2 permits into additional windfalls.”
A report compiled by the Dutch consulting firm CE Delft for T&E shows that Lufthansa made as much as €53.6m in windfall profits, while Air France made €51.5m and British Airways €44.1m.
The carbon tax on aviation was imposed by the EU in January last year, but 26 of ICAO’s 36 members, including India, Russia, China and the US, opposed the move, saying it violated international law.
Congress passed a law last November shielding US carriers from paying the tax.
The EU tax forces airlines operating in the bloc to buy 15% of their carbon emissions – or 32 million tonnes – to help tackle global warming.
The companies were due to pay their taxes this year.