Flights to Europe are Very Cheap, Until You Add in Taxes and Surcharges

Quick, which is cheaper – a transatlantic flight to Europe or the 190-mile commuter flight from Boston to New York? Yes, it is a trick question. Here’s the pricing breakdown for airfare (as of January 2012):

  • Boston to New York: $112 round-trip, airfare only
  • Boston to London: $81 round-trip, airfare only

That’s right – the transatlantic flight is cheaper.

Distance Doesn’t Always Matter in Airfare

Or it is – until you add in the mandatory taxes, fees and surcharges. Then it works out as follows:

  • Boston to New York: $133 round-trip total
  • Boston to London: $690 round-trip total

When it comes to airfare to and from Europe, it’s all about the mandatory extra costs.

Take a look at this chart to see examples of how much you may have to pay in surcharges and taxes:


Surcharges and Taxes: Who Adds What

Airlines can and do add surcharges for a variety of reasons but most often to cover the high cost of fuel.

As for taxes and fees, these charged by over half a dozen different entities ranging from central to local governments (and their agencies) as well as by the airports.

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Average Surcharges and Taxes on Airfare to Europe

FareCompare examined 250 non-stop flights from the U.S. to Europe shows that the average round-trip cost of surcharges and taxes is $582. The breakdown is $448 in surcharges and $134 in taxes and fees.

Costs Vary by Country

Taxes and fees can vary dramatically, and here are just two examples:

  • Spain: $76 round-trip taxes/fees
  • United Kingdom: $196 round-trip taxes/fees

Surcharges are destination-dependent as well:

  • Ireland: $217 surcharge
  • Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland: $476 surcharge

Why Airlines Add Big Surcharges

The reason airlines add surcharges is really pretty simple: they make more money. You could even say, they need to make more money.

Surcharges are generally associated with an expensive the airlines wish to pass on to their passengers, including fuel. Plus, it’s a way for them to charge more money on the most popular days or travel periods such as Thanksgiving.

What Flyers Can Do about Surcharges and Taxes

There’s no way to avoid them, but you can keep costs down by shopping carefully for your flights to Europe. A few good tips:

  1. Travel during the cheapest seasons of Europe
  2. Fly the off-peak days of the week (often Monday through Thursday)


Published: January 25, 2012