Will the French suffer an increase in toll prices or their plane tickets in the name of ecological transition? As it had announced, the government is planning a new tax in its 2024 budget whose primary aim is to attack the profits of motorway companies, but which will also include large airports... Called "infrastructure tax long-distance transport”, this tax should bring in 600 million euros per year from 2024. But some fear that at the end of the chain, taxpayers will be forced to take their hands in their wallets.
Concretely, this tax aims to “ensure that those who pollute more contribute more”, summarizes the Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire in person. “The best financing”, according to him, for the “extremely high” and “imperative” investments necessary in terms of ecological transition.
By targeting “long-distance transport infrastructure”, this tax must therefore affect Paris Airports (ADP) as well as some of the largest French airports such as Nice or Marseille. First concerned, ADP immediately replied that “the increase in regulated charges” (i.e. 75% of the additional charge linked to the tax) would be “passed on in the royalty rates”. Airport fees paid today by airlines, for the landing and parking of their planes, but also for the provision of check-in and boarding counters and baggage handling facilities.
This increase in prices would, however, be “staged over two to three years, in order to contain its effect for airlines and respect the principle, provided for by law, of a “moderate” change in prices from one year to the next. », Announces ADP in a press release, which thus seems to want to preserve the economic repercussions of this tax on commercial partners such as airlines. But how can we then imagine that they will not carry over this increase in royalty rates onto the price of plane tickets?
UDI senator Vincent Capo-Canellas, who has worked in the airline sector for a long time, is affirmative: “in the system economy, it is always the passenger who pays.” According to the former mayor of Le Bourget, there are on the one hand the airports which are increasing fees, “to guarantee a good level of investment for improving the quality of service” and on the other, the airlines “who have a low level of profitability and already complain about a high level of royalties”. He believes that “the subject of financing, competitiveness and quality of rail service deserves a national debate” but should not be done “by handicapping competing modes of transport”.
An opinion shared by Arnaud Aymé, transport specialist at Sia Partners, who explains that with an increase in fees, airlines will have no other choice than “to pass this increase on to ticket prices” or “to change airport. Example in Lyon, whose concession goes to Vinci, where airlines can choose to serve Geneva airport, located not very far away, rather than paying more. Another point to take into account according to him: “an airport is not only a landing place, but also a stopover place. However, if ADP fees become dissuasive, there is no doubt that airlines will choose another airport for their connections.
However, this increase in taxation “will not be passed on to the user”, promised Bruno Le Maire for his part, ignoring the warnings of the leaders of the large French motorway companies who recently explained that “an increase in taxes” would “inevitably” result in “an increase in tolls”. This is particularly the case of Pierre Coppey, the president of Vinci Autoroutes, who recalls that compensation measures have always been applied each time new taxes have been imposed on motorway concession companies (SCA).
The dealers believe that the law and case law work in their favor. In 2011, for example, the State decided to increase the land use planning rate (TAT) by 6.7%, paid each year by the SCAs. In return, they had obtained an additional price increase on tolls of 0.35% in 2011 and 0.17% in 2012. Rebelote in 2013, when the government took the decision to increase the SCA state fee. This change was compensated for by an agreement signed in April 2015, included in the contract amendments and approved by the Council of State in August which provided for an additional increase in toll rates in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The concessions stipulate in fact "that in the event of modification, creation or elimination (...) of taxes, duties or fees specific to motorway concession companies", the latter are entitled to "measures of compensation, particularly tariffs,” the Council of State itself noted. Increasing taxation “would not only be a violation of the State’s word”, but also “a contradiction at a time when it is urgent to invest to decarbonize the road”, he defended.
Opposite, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, persists and signs: "tolls will not increase beyond what is predicted by inflation" because "we are the ones who pay the tolls." let’s fix it.” Before claiming “to have consulted the Council of State”, in order to “ensure that we respect the rules, we consulted the Council of State”. Then it was the turn of the Minister Delegate in charge of Transport, Clément Beaune, to add another layer: “I want to reassure everyone: the taxation of motorway concessionaires will not have repercussions on tolls, which are fixed by contract and validated by the State. Before concluding: “Everything else is fake news.”