The Slovak government, faced with a shortage of revenues to cover the budget deficit, has approved a financial plan to renovate the country's six airports by levying a three percent tax on every airplane ticket sold in Slovakia. The plan has caused a furor among domestic travel agencies and both domestic and international airlines.
"What this may mean is that common people will opt to go to Vienna and buy a ticket there to save money on this tax," said Ivica Kianičková, Director of A.I.T. travel agency. "But in my opinion, companies will remain on this market and purchase their tickets here."
But Jozef Stolárik, the Ministry of Transportation, Post and Telecommunication official who came up with the proposed bill, refuted this claim. "I do not think that it will make people go and buy their tickets in Vienna instead of Bratislava," he said. "The three percent tax will be included in price. If you really consider it, that is the price for a bus ticket from Bratislava to Vienna."
A round trip bus ticket from Bratislava to Vienna is 200 Sk for Slovaks, 600 Sk for foreigners. Three percent of a 20,000 Sk airline ticket to New York equals 600 Sk.
Slovakia has six airports, of which only Bratislava meets the standards of an international airport. Modernizing all six facilities will cost the government an investment of 1.3 billion Sk, spurring hopes that the proposed bill will become a big revenue maker.
Travel agencies, however, claim that it is not reasonable to ask travellers to pay a three percent tax on flights that leave from foreign airports just because their tickets were bought in Slovakia. "The bill does not make sense," said Jana Kozubová, Director of the Slovak Association of Travel Agencies (SACK). "Why should we pay this tax if the flight departs from Vienna? Why are we supporting our airports when no one even uses them?" SACK issued a statement which said that due to the proximity of Vienna airport, it was very likely that people would choose to buy airplane tickets in Vienna rather than in Slovakia.
Stolárik said that "only those few people who need to jump on a plane immediately will run to Vienna and get their ticket there". Others, in his opinion, would do it the usual way, through travel agencies or international airline offices.
International airline companies have been more surprised than angry. Roman Ňaňo, Director of the Slovak office of Swissair, a Swiss airline which is the sole western European carrier to fly into Bratislava, told the daily SME that "they would be very surprised at our headquarters in Switzerland to see this bill passed. We already pay fees for every passenger [who flies] to this country, so we [already] take part in the airport's renewal."
The bill will be submitted to Parliament during its May session, and Stolárik expects a wild debate. "The bill should be passed, but there may be some problems with the opposition," he said.
23. Apr 1998 at 0:00 | Andrea Lörinczová