Caracas Airport Charges Flyers for Clean Air, Ominously Calls It "Breathing Tax"
As if flying wasn't bad enough these days (we even have to keep our cellphones precharged now, egh), one airport has taken air travel to its most comical (read: worst): Simon Bolivar International Airport is charging passengers for clean air starting this month. Well, really what they're doing is charging flyers for the right to breathe clean air, in the form of a tax — not that that's much better, really.
From July onward, anyone flying to or from Simon Bolivar International Airport of Maiquetia in Caracas is going to have spend 125 bolivars — roughly $20, depending on the highly variable exchange rate — on what the airport has called a "breathing tax." Ostensibly, the fee is in order to pay for a "state of the art" air purification system, which "deodorizes" and "sanitizes" the building (just how smelly and dirty was it before, you have to wonder). It's the first of its kind in South America, the ministry of water and air transport boasts, and will help "protect the health of travelers."
If you're thinking that this sounds suspiciously like a pricey air-conditioning unit, you're not alone. The move has caused a furor on social media in Venezuela, where people are already pretty unhappy with the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Recently, Maduro's office put certain currency controls in place that have stopped international airlines — like Delta and American Airlines, for example — from repatriating what they make from selling tickets in Venezuela. What this has meant is that Delta, American, United, and Canada Air have all severely cut down their flights to the country — which, as you can imagine, has not been so good for Maiquetia Airport's revenues.
“We are isolated as airlines have reduced flights to the U.S. by more than 80 percent,” Jesus Ernesto Ortiz, president of Caracas travel agency Happy Tour Group, told Bloomberg earlier this week. “Venezuela is going to receive less flights than Cuba or Haiti. It is the first time the Venezuelan airlines sector is facing a crisis like that.”
Well, it certainly puts EasyJet's fees into perspective, if nothing else.