List of Award Taxes from Major Cities in Europe, So You Return from Low Tax Countries

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Below is a list of the taxes for awards departing from most major European cities, flying to the United States.

My friend wrote to me:

Not sure if any of the travel websites have done this, but the taxes of the airports in Europe really can impact the cost basis.

Just looking at three European cities for my United award:
London: $200
Athens: $98
Geneva: $48
Factoring for two people, that makes a big difference.

Every time you book an award with frequent flyer miles, you are responsible for paying government taxes associated with the award ticket. Sometimes you are also responsible for paying fuel surcharges or ticketing fees.

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

My friend was looking at booking a roundtrip United award to Europe for July. United doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on any awards, and there are no fees for ticketing United awards more than 21 days before departure, so all he’d be on the hook for is the miles price and the government taxes.

Taxes vary widely based on the country and airport you depart, connections you make, and, occasionally, the cabin you fly.

Below I’ve compiled basically what my friend asked for: the taxes on a one way award from major European cities to the United States.

Why a one way award from Europe to the USA?

Because all direct one way awards from the USA to Europe have taxes of $5.60.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 6.03.45 PM

The reason is that the United States puts most of its international aviation taxes, $17.50 worth, on the return to the United States while almost every other country in the world puts its aviation taxes, ranging from $15 to $280, on departure.

Bottom line: the country you fly into on a European award doesn’t affect the taxes; only the country you return to the United States from (plus connections and occasionally the cabin you fly) affects the taxes.

For a roundtrip award to the cities below, add $5.60 in taxes.

How Did I Get the Info?

I got all the tax information from united.com. On search results, hover your cursor over the taxes for a detailed breakdown.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 6.02.19 PM

There’s nothing special about united.com except that it is easy to use. The same taxes would apply on awards with any other types of miles (though fuel surcharges and other fees may apply with other types of miles too.)

Extra Taxes for Flying in a Premium Cabin

Britain and France charge higher taxes for departing in Business and First Class. (I really just mean Britain, the island with England, Scotland, and Wales. Northern Ireland does not charge extra to fly a premium cabin, perhaps to compete with low Irish departure taxes.)

Britain calls its variable tax the “UK Air Passenger Duty,” and it is calculated based on the distance between London and the capital of the country where your award ends. France–hilariously–calls its variable tax the “Air Passenger Solidarity Tax.” I guess these countries figure, “From each [passenger] according to his ability [to pay punitive departure taxes]…”

Departure taxes leaving selected cities in Britain and France:

  • Paris in economy: $78.80
  • Paris in Business or First: $124.50
  • Manchester in economy: $144.70
  • Manchester in Business or First: $253.80
  • Glasgow in economy: $146.10
  • Glasgow in Business or First: $255.20
  • Edinburgh in economy: $147.20
  • Edinburgh in Business or First: $256.40
  • London in economy: $191.10
  • London in Business or First: $300.20

Avoid flying out of Britain on your European award, especially in a premium cabin. Britain is a lovely place that you shouldn’t skip on a big European adventure, just make sure it’s your first stop instead of your last stop, so you don’t have to pay the Air Passenger Duty.

If you do fly home from Britain, airports outside London have taxes about $45 lower.

France in economy is on the high end of the European range. In a premium cabin, departing France is better only than departing Britain.

Low Tax Countries

I’ve ordered the cities from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Oslo: $31.70
  • Istanbul: $32.50
  • Warsaw: $33.80
  • Stockholm: $36.30
  • Dublin: $39
  • Belfast: $42.20
  • Geneva: $42.90
  • Venice: $43.40
  • Barcelona: $43.50
  • Shannon: $43.60
  • Copenhagen: $43.80
  • Lisbon: $47.40
  • Amsterdam: $48
  • Madrid: $48.40
  • Brussels: $50
  • Milan: $50
  • Zurich: $56.50
  • Rome: $60
  • Hamburg: $82.70
  • Vienna: $87
  • Munich: $94.80
  • Frankfurt: $112.10
  • Berlin: $119.20

Shockingly to me, the cheapest country to depart is Norway, which is the most expensive country I’ve ever visited.

Irish and Northern Irish cities come out well on the list between $39 and $44, making Britain’s punitive Air Passenger Duty all the starker.

Most taxes cluster in the $30 to $60 range where I don’t think the difference is big enough to affect your departure decision.

The outlier is Germany. It is the most expensive country to depart outside of Britain and France. It also shows the most variability between departure airports. Hamburg, with a direct United flight to Newark, has only $83 per departure in taxes while departing Berlin costs $119.

Connections

The above showed the taxes on a direct flight from those cities to either Newark or New York (though the American city you fly to doesn’t matter.)

Connecting increases the taxes. Here are some sample connection taxes to give you an idea:

  • Oslo direct to Newark: $31.70
  • Oslo to Newark to Los Angeles: $37.30
  • Oslo to Copenhagen to Los Angeles: $48
  • Oslo to Munich to Newark: $51
  • Oslo to Frankfurt to Newark: $64.90
  • Oslo to London to Newark: $80.40

If you connect in the United States, you have to pay the $5.60 September 11 security fee. If you connect in other countries, you usually pay their taxes in the range of $10 to $50.

Again, London is the worst, but transiting London is a lot cheaper than starting your award there. And there are no extra taxes for transiting London in a premium cabin.

Eastern Europe

To get home from smaller cities in Eastern Europe like Prague, Helsinki, Riga, or Ljubljana, you will need to connect. The Eastern European countries themselves have low taxes, but the connection adds to the taxes. You’re probably looking at spending about $80 to $120 in taxes one way.

Maximizing This Information

Don’t make your destination picks based on saving a few bucks in taxes, but think about the order of your destinations. On your open jaw award, fly into the higher tax country and home from the lower tax country.

As an extreme example, imagine a Business Class open jaw award where you see Oslo and London. Flying into London and out of Oslo is smart. You pay only $37 in taxes.

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Flying into Oslo and out of London is silly. You pay $304 in taxes–$267 more than the other way.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.20.47 PM

Similarly if you want to take advantage of the current 25% transfer bonus from Citi ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Premium Economy or Upper Class to Europe, I suggest booking that award one way to London and returning from a low tax country.

Flying Newark to London in Premium Economy would cost 27,500 Virgin Atlantic miles (22,000 ThankYou Points) + $234.60. In Upper Class, you’d pay 40,000 miles (32,000 ThankYou Points) + $419.60 for a flat bed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.25.45 PM Then return from Madrid for 30,000 United miles (or 27,500 Singapore miles/ThankYou Points) + $48.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.25.23 PM

Bottom Line

Taxes vary widely on awards that include a return from Europe. Taxes are based on the country and airport you depart, countries you transit, and occasionally cabin you fly.

Avoid departing Britain, France, or Germany. Most of the rest of Europe has taxes in the $40 to $70 range for a roundtrip. On open jaw awards, fly into the more expensive country and return from the cheaper country.

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

 


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. If I were to route Rome – Munich – USA would I pay the lower Rome tax or would Munich throw something in there as well?

    • Did you see the section on connections? You will pay both Rome departure taxes and Munich connection taxes. You can price it out on united.com.

      • Scott, would love to see an article enumerating the lowest European taxes from *connection* cities. Recently flew MAD-CDG-ORD-DCA and found MAD-PHL-DCA was ~ $50 and MAD-CDG-ORD-DCA was ~ $ 120. A pretty big difference, IMO, to connect in Paris. I’d not been, so I did it anyway, as I figured it was worthwhile for 24 hours.

        • France, Germany, and Britain are bad for connections as far as I know, but not as bad as for departures.

  2. These taxes are definitely part of cash tickets, but they are not usually broken out to see them. You just see the final all in price.

  3. Hi Scott –

    I think this is another masterpiece. I’ve picked up some clues from your previous articles / QnAs – that returning from Spain/Portugal is cheaper. But, I want to commend your systematic approach and the thoroughness / effort that went into putting this info together. Much appreciated! Thank you!
    -G

  4. Great post Scott!
    Can u do a post on getting to these low cost dept cty from LHR including other modes of travel?

  5. this is a gem.. now can you also tell us which countries to depart/fly into to avoid YQ.

    programs with YQ like you mentioned asiana are interesting for europe.

    • To AVOID fuel surcharges, you have to pick an airline that doesn’t have them or an airline that doesn’t implement them on awards. Changing countries might reduce fuel surcharges, but it won’t take them to zero.

  6. Man, you and Travel is Free are killing it. BoardingArea blogs are turning into a joke compared to you two offering real value.

  7. Do these departure taxes apply to the cheaper intra-Europe flights? Ie, if we fly into London then take Ryanair to another European destination will London hit you with the steep departure tax?

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