STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
THE Balearic Parliament yesterday voted unanimously in favour of calling on the local and central governments to challenge Germany over its controversial air travel tax which is due to come in to force at the beginning of next year.

Airlines will have to pay up to 26 euros per passenger under the German government's plan to impose an air travel tax to raise 1 billion euros a year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the tax plan over the summer as part of 80 billion euros of budget measures, stunning the aviation industry and sparking protest from airlines and lobby groups. Under the plan, airlines will be taxed according to the distance their passengers travel, starting January 1, 2011.

For shorter trips within the European Union and a number of other countries less then 2'500 kilometres away, the tax is set at 13 euros. For longer trips, at 26 euros.

The tax plan comes as European airlines struggle to return to profitability after the industry's worst downturn in decades.
Airlines body International Air Transport Association has warned that Europe's aviation industry was recovering more slowly than expected, hit by a volcanic ash cloud that closed airspace across a large part of the continent in April, as well as by a weaker euro.

Here in the Balearics, the tourism industry is worried that the tax will have a negative effect on German tourism next year and MPs believe that Palma and Madrid should open talks with Germany over at least excluding the islands, which depend on air travel, from the tax.

The Majorcan Unionist Party fears that the air tax will seriously restrict the Balearics' ability to compete with emerging destinations which can be easily reached by alternative modes of transport to air travel.

The tax is also going to increase the cost of Balearic holidays and MPs want the Balearic government to lodge a complaint with the European Union Committee of Regions.

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