‘Green surtax’ makes Lufthansa Group tickets up to €72 more expensive

German airline group Lufthansa, to which Brussels Airlines also belongs, is launching an environmental surcharge of 1 to 72 euros for all flights departing from Europe and the UK, Norway, and Switzerland. For Brussels Airlines, the surcharge will be a maximum of 36 euros per flight.

The surcharge will be charged on bookings starting today for travel from 1 January 2025.

SAF and ETS

“This surcharge is intended to cover part of the ever-increasing additional costs arising from environmental regulations,” Lufthansa says. The airline group refers to the EU’s obligation to add more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to traditional paraffin from 2025. For 2025, it will be 2% SAF; in 2030, it will be 5% SAF, and in  2050, 70%, but SAF is three to four times more expensive than regular paraffin.

For example, adjustments to the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme also play a role. Aviation has so far been exempted from ETS, which thus revolves around buying emissions allowances. For intra-European flights, those free allowances are being systematically phased out: 50% next year, and from 2026, the scheme will be abolished altogether.

Last year, as much as 78% of aviation’s CO2 emissions weren’t priced. Intercontinental flights are also not covered by the ETS. Still, the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has its own (voluntary) compensation scheme, Corsia, under which airlines must pay more for their emissions on long-haul flights.

‘Not in the position to cover rising costs’

The Lufthansa Group says it invests billions annually to make flying more sustainable. “However, the aviation group will be unable to bear all the rising additional costs due to regulatory requirements alone in the coming years. The new environmental surcharge must now cover part of those expected costs for 2025,” it says.

The group aims to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030 (compared to 2019) and to be CO2 neutral by 2050.

In April, the European Commission and national consumer authorities reprimanded 20 airlines, including Brussels Airlines, for “misleading greenwashing claims”, including about CO2 emissions.

Blame the EU instead of the polluter

Companies passing on increased costs to customers is standard practice, just as it is fair that trying to make air travel more environmentally friendly comes at a cost. However, in the newspaper De Morgen, transport economist Wouter Dewulf warns that the danger lies in the fact that Lufthansa and other airlines will increase the environmental tax if the impact of the European measures becomes greater by 2030. “They can then pass the hot potato to the government and say the more expensive airline tickets are their fault.”

In the business newspaper L’Echo, the consumer association Testachats is more or less on the same wavelength. However, it describes the surcharge as “scandalous” because the Lufthansa Group presents it as a tax, “something that should be an integral part of their “Business as Usual”. In other words, “An excellent way to support the green transition, increase prices, and blame Europe”.

Lufthansa’s operating profit was almost 2.7 billion euros last year, and Brussels Airlines posted a record profit of 53 million euros in 2023. Overall, passenger numbers are still expected to rise significantly. In 2023, 123 million passengers traveled with the Lufthansa Group’s airlines.

Brussels Airport expects 5 million passengers this summer

Speaking of passengers, Brussels Airport expects to handle more than five million passengers during the summer holidays. As a result, July and August will be 6% busier than last year.

Brussels Airport says it is prepared for the crowds, including new automatic gates at border control and a new app. Passengers are advised to reserve a parking space if traveling to the airport by car and to re-read the rules on hand luggage.

The most popular destinations are “classic summer destinations” such as Spain, the Canary Islands, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Morocco, Italy and Egypt. During the summer season, the airport welcomes new airlines like Amélia (with Brive in the South of France as the destination), Juneau Airlines (Shanghai), Singapore Airlines (Singapore), Wider (Bergen), and Wizz Air (Budapest), and new destinations like Bari (with Transavia), Gazipasa (Corendon), Krakow and Nairobi (Brussels Airlines).

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