The U.S. airlines’ trade association, Airlines for America (A4A), never met a tax it liked, so it comes as no surprise that A4A is protesting new customs fees in the Bahamas. In the airline news game, carriers protesting a tax hike is the equivalent of a dog-bites-man story.
Except in this case, the airlines have a point.
The object of their disaffection is a new customs processing fee of $75 per aircraft arrival and departure. For a 150-seat aircraft, this works out to about $1 per roundtrip passenger, which doesn’t seem like a big deal. But the deal gets bigger for flights operating before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m., when substantial additional overtime fees apply.
What’s really galling to the airlines, and surprising to us, is that the Bahamas, a country that supposedly understands the economic role of air travel and tourism, adopted these fees last month with little advance notice and no prior consultation with the airline community.
It might be that the cost of customs processing has grown so much in recent years that these new user fees are fully justified and unavoidable. Maybe the Bahamas Finance Ministry can make that case and maybe it can’t, but in any event it should have put its best case forward before springing these fees on an unsuspecting industry.
So the airlines have a point.
Having said that, we believe A4A got a little churlish in its letter to the Bahamas Customs Department when it warned that “airlines may be forced to reconsider their service levels to the Bahamas.”
This is the superficially polite version of bringing in the heavy in the double-breasted suit to say, “Dat’s a nice little tourism business ya got there; be a shame if something happened to it, know what I mean?”
Some things are better left unsaid.
By Travel Weekly