People leaving Lebanon via Beirut airport will now have to pay a higher departure tax before they board their flights.
Weeks after Lebanon's parliament passed a new tax hike law, Beirut airport-based Civil Aviation Directorate issued a circular announcing that one of them, the 'departure tax,' has now officially gone into effect.
Early on Wednesday, Mohammed Shahabuddin, Director General of Civil Aviation in Lebanon, said:
“All airlines operating at Rafic Hariri Airport are required to start collecting passenger departure fees as of 22/8/2017 on the basis of Law No. 45.”
The new charges
Passengers traveling abroad on economy-class tickets, will now be expected to pay $39.83 (60,000 L.L.,) those traveling on business class will pay $73 (110,000 L.L.).
People opting for first class tickets will now have to pay $100 (150,000 L.L.) in taxes before they board their flights, while those traveling on private jets will be charged $265 (400,000 L.L).
"Travelers should note that the departure fees from Beirut remain unchanged for those whose destination is: Athens, Georgia, Armenia, Erbil, Jordan, Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Baghdad, Najaf, Basra, and Iraq," Annahar wrote.
An operator at the Rafiq Hariri International Airport told Stepfeed that travelers who need further clarification on how the new tax affects them should contact the airline they're flying with.
Stepfeed also got in touch with an operator at MEA who said the airline has yet to apply the new tax on any of their flights and will make an announcement once a decision on the matter is made.
The taxes were raised to fund the salary hike that would offer public sector workers, including teachers, new salary packages. The hikes also include a 1 percent increase on the value-added tax (VAT), which previously stood at 10 percent.
"I don't understand how this law even passed"
As the taxes come into effect, people's worries are now slowly becoming a reality.
Speaking to Stepfeed, Mireille, a Lebanese expat who lives in Abu Dhabi said:
"I come to Lebanon at least twice a year, along with my three kids and husband. Other than all the bills we have to pay every time we stay in our house here, we now have to pay a tax when we travel back to Abu Dhabi! This is ridiculous and completely unaffordable for so many families, including ours. I don't understand how this law even passed," she said.
"This whole thing is also completely inconsiderate towards millions of Lebanese who live abroad and who travel back home several times a year. We go back to see loved ones, it's unfair to make this unaffordable for us. It's the least of our rights," she added.
"We're a family of 6, do the maths"
George, a Lebanese expat who has lived in Saudi Arabia for over ten years along with his 4 kids and wife, finds the new 'exit tax' unacceptable.
"At the moment, me and my family are on our summer vacation in Lebanon. All of us are traveling back next week and we're a family of 6, do the maths. It's just unaffordable and unacceptable."
"We live abroad to save up some money and secure a better future for our children. But, we still want to come back here every now and then to see extended family. We usually come twice every year, I am not sure that's going to be an option for us from now on," he added.
Tania, who lives in Qatar with her husband also expressed concern over the 'exit tax.'
"Someone told me 'inno yalla' it's just $40 or $50, but this is the real problem. We always normalize outrageous taxes and bills. We pay two electricity bills and think it's normal, we pay extra water supply bills and think it's normal. It's not. None of these bills we pay are," she said.
"Regardless of whether a person can afford this tax or not, it's just ridiculous. What country taxes its people for traveling abroad?" she added.
The departure tax also exists in several airports around the world
"I just want to understand, where else is there an airport that imposes a departure tax!"
Though many Lebanese were shocked by the approval of the hike on the 'departure tax,' similar airport taxes aren't unusual and exist in several countries across the world.
These countries include the UK, which imposes the "highest passenger tax levied anywhere in the world."
According to Airport-Technology, the country charges a £13 ($17) departure tax for economy class and £26 ($33) departure tax for for all other classes."
"Passengers flying further than 2,000 miles pay £73 ($95) for economy class and up to £146 ($189) for all other classes."
Other countries that impose a similar tax include, Australia, Russia, the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Germany, Norway, Qatar, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Spain, The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Fiji, Iceland and Scotland.