No airport fee, now it's a fund


AIR passengers complaining about an Airport Construction Fee added to the price of their tickets will be happy to hear the fee is no more. But not so happy to learn that a Civil Aviation Development Fund has replaced it and the extra charges will continue.

The name change was announced yesterday and the charges of 50 yuan (US$7.93) for domestic routes and 90 yuan for international routes leaving from China are unchanged.

All passengers on domestic and international airlines must pay the charge until the end of 2015, the only exceptions being diplomats, children under 12 and passengers on domestic routes using smaller "regional jets," the Ministry of Finance said.

"Money raised from the charges will mainly be used to fund the construction and renovation of the country's civil aviation facilities and to subsidize airport operators," said the ministry. The fund will also be used to support cutting emissions and the country's general aviation development and pilot training as well as for scientific research, the ministry added.

Twenty yuan of each charge is to go toward a tourism fund, but no further details were given.

"China plans to invest a total of 1.5 trillion yuan in civil aviation development before 2015, and the fund will be a major source for the investment," said Wei Jigang, a researcher with the State Council Development Research Center in Beijing.

China began charging the fee in 1992 to modernize the country's existing airports and build new ones. At first, it was 15 yuan, but that gradually increased to the current 50 and 90 yuan.

The government raised 14.7 billion yuan from the fee last year and expected to collect a total of 15.4 billion yuan this year, the ministry said earlier.

It is estimated that more than 100 billion yuan has been raised over the past 20 years.

Passengers have challenged the charges as they said that all the money needed for "construction" would have been raised years ago.

However, Zou Jianjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China, said: "It is great progress from 'fee' to 'fund,' because the old fees were only used for airport construction while the new fund will benefit the whole industry, including airports, general aviation and new technologies."



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