Until today airport taxes were almost unknown in the Gulf region.
In contrast to other areas of the world, and especially in Europe and Asia, travellers do not expect to pay for the privilege of using an airport’s facilities.
But that has changed. Dubai has announced it will start to levy airport fees for flights taken on or after July 1.
The fee will be included in the cost of the tickets. It will be applied to tickets issued from now for travel taken on or from July 1.
Fee per passenger will be AED35 or roughly US$9.50. It will be applied both to departing passengers and those who are in transit.
The latter is unusual. Why? Because most airports want to encourage transit passengers so they either waive fees or, at worse, levy a lower charge.
That’s certainly the case in the UK where APD is not applied to international passengers in transit.
In the case of Dubai it means that a passenger flying Emirates from Dubai to, say, London or Singapore will pay the same fee as would a passenger using Emirates to fly from London to Bombay (via Dubai) or from Singapore to Rome (via Dubai).
The exception is where the passenger is taking a through flight which has a single flight number and is merely stopping in Dubai.
Here I am thinking of the daily Qantas A380 flights from Sydney and Melbourne which call in at Dubai en route for London Heathrow.
Ironically, only last October the CEO of Dubai was quoted in Arabian Business as saying his airport had no plans to introduce a tax.
Dubai is the world’s busiest international airport. It expects to handle 86 million passengers in 2016.
Based on that number the tax would provide Dubai with a revenue stream worth several hundred million US dollars every year. That’s a sum that’s not to be sneezed at.
According to reports, the revenue from the fee will be passed to Dubai Airport and from there to the Dubai government public treasury.
Some or all of the revenue will be used for improving and expanding Dubai airport.
Will Dubai passengers notice? Probably not. It’s a modest charge (compared to the UK’s APD) and with the airlines incorporating this fee in the total ticket price the chances are that few if any passengers will notice with fares constantly changing.
So will Abu Dhabi and Doha, the other two major Gulf hubs, follow Dubai? We’ll have to wait and see.