A Primer on US Aviation Taxes That Apply on International Flights

On Tuesday, I talked about the taxes and fees that applied to domestic travel, but now I’m turning toward international travel, a more complicated beast. Let’s stick with the example I started to use on Monday during the fuel surcharge post with a roundtrip from LA to Papeete on Tahiti. This is again a Delta fare even though it’s on a flight operated by Air France. Here’s how it breaks down.

Sample International Fare Display


Base Fare
The base fare here is $957. This is a round number, unlike the domestic one from yesterday because when an airline files a base fare internationally, it’s just that and doesn’t include any tax. That’s also because there is no percentage tax internationally.

Airline Surcharge (YQ)
Yesterday, we talked about airline surcharges and those are often filed like a tax under the code YQ. In this case, Delta has filed a $360.40 YQ charge that it is calling an “International Surcharge” on its website. Sometimes it will be called a fuel surcharge, but the name can vary. This is money kept by the airline. It wouldn’t be taxable if there were a percentage tax, but since there isn’t one internationally, that’s not relevant.

US International Transportation Tax (US)
As in the domestic example, there is a federal US tax but it’s not a percentage. It’s currently $16.70 each way, so you can see here that the total US is $33.40.

US Customs User Fee (YC)
This charge is collected by the government to support customs inspection functions at $5.50 per entry into the US.

US Federal Inspection Fee (XY)
This charge is collected by the government to support immigration inspection functions at $7.00 per entry into the US.

US APHIS User Fee (XA)
This charge is collected by the government to support plant and animal inspections at $5.00 per entry into the US.

US September 11th Security Fee (AY)
This charge might look familiar because it’s charged on domestic flights as well, but there is a trick. This only applies to flights departing from the US so on this one, it only gets charged once at $2.50 since the return leaves from Tahiti.

Passenger Facility Charge (XF)
This one is the same as it is domestically. Departures from US airports with the fee in place are charged up to $4.50 per departure. In this case, LAX charges $4.50.

And those are all the US taxes and fees. What else is in here? You’ll see a PF charge of $15.60 and an FR charge of $17.60. Since this flight is international, the US isn’t the only one charging fees and taxes here. The PF charge is a local departure tax for French Polynesia while the FR tax is a French tax since French Polynesia is still part of France.

I picked this example because it’s quite simple with very few taxes. It’s not uncommon to see far more than this. It gets so complex, we’ve even had a few tickets we’ve issued that have had so many taxes that Delta’s system couldn’t handle the length of the fare calculation. Crazy stuff. How about this one with United and Lufthansa, for example?

Complex International Taxes

This trip is from Cairo to Frankfurt, then on to London, over to LA, and then back to Cairo. The alphabet soup of taxes is incredible. There’s also added complication here because since it starts in Cairo, the fare is in Egyptian currency. But since we’re in the US, the system converts it to US Dollars. I won’t go through each tax here because we’ll be here all day, but I think you get the point.

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