Quito, Ecuador- As much as I don’t want this trip to end my bank account has begun to tell me that my desires and reality are not in agreement with another so it was time to buy my ticket back to the US. A one-way ticket through Delta Airlines from Bogota, Colombia to New York [...]
As much as I don’t want this trip to end my bank account has begun to tell me that my desires and reality are not in agreement with another so it was time to buy my ticket back to the US. A one-way ticket through Delta Airlines from Bogota, Colombia to New York came to $240.30. Not bad, I’ll take it.
Taxes and Fees were then added to increase the price to $363.60. Woah! $123.30 is a 34% increase in ticket price solely due to taxes and fees. What am I getting charged for?
That question led to multiple hours on-line searching, reading and trying to break down what I’m actually being charged for. The internet was not the most helpful and there seems to be just as much confusion on-line as there was in my head. Colombian fees and the on-line forums make it a bit more confusing with various talk about exit taxes, resident taxes and tourist taxes. No one seems to call these taxes a consistent name either. Some forums refer to the ‘Exit tax’ as an exit tax and others call it a ‘Airport tax’ and, of course, there is the Spanish name of ‘Tasas Aeroportuarias Internacionales‘ that others choose to use. The price then doubles for this tax depending on your length of stay in Colombia. Also, where do I pay this tax? Is it included in my ticket price or will I pay it at the airport? And this is only one of the three supposed taxes that I will be charged for flying out of Bogota. See how confusing this gets?
After several hours of searching on-line between Travelocity, ITA, NY Times articles, the Delta Airlines website, various blogs and chat forums plus several e-mails to Travelocity and a call to Delta Airlines I think I’ve figured this all out. Let me break it all down and explain for any future confused travelers (which if the past is any indicator of the future there will be a lot of you)
My Ticket Price: $240.30
U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Fee $5.00
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Fee $7.00
U.S. Customs User Fee $5.50
Colombia Sales Tax $35.80
Colombia International Airport Tax $34.00
Colombia Resident Exit Tax $36.00
Total Taxes and Fees: $123.30
There are also the following fees which were included in my ticket price but depending on which airline you fly may also be included in the Taxes and Fees section instead.
U.S. International Transportation Tax $16.30 (Round trip is $32.60)
Passenger Facility Charge $4.50
Sept. 11th Security Fee $2.50
The US charges are fairly straightforward and are well documented on-line so I won’t get into those. Lets talk about those Colombian taxes.
Colombian Sales Tax: This should be 16% of your ticket price. But Sam, 16% of $240.30 is $38.45, not $35.80. I know that but I was charged $35.80. If I were to guess why there is a difference I would say it’s due to some kind of exchange rate conversion issue. To calculate the Colombian sales tax they probably converted dollars into pesos using one exchange rate and then converted the tax amount back into dollars using a different exchange rate. That’s my best educated guess anyway. The important thing to note is that this tax is consistent. It’s always charged no matter which airline you use and no matter where your flying to in the world.
Colombia International Airport Tax: This is a confusing one. Some call it the Exit tax others call it the International Airport Tax and others will refer to it as the ‘Tasas Aeroportuarias Internacionales.’ It’s all the same tax and it’s currently $34.00. Unless you stay longer than 60 days, then it’s $68.00. They also adjust this tax every year so on-line you’ll see different people say it’s a different amount based on when they said it. If you read this post a year from now you probably won’t be charged $34.00. Sorry, but you’ll most likely be paying more.
Colombia Resident Exit Tax: Here is another confusing tax and where things get a little more complicated. It’s also called the ‘Impuesto de timbre nacional‘ and like the International Airport Tax this also seems to change almost every year. The worst part is I shouldn’t even have had to pay this tax. This is why I was e-mailing Travelocity and calling Delta Airlines. Of course, Travelocity was completely unhelpful and told me that this tax was not included in my ticket price. Only the breakdown of taxes on Delta’s website clued me in that I was probably paying this fee. They included it under a line-item called ‘Other Taxes and Fees’ and so they didn’t actually label the charge as ‘Colombian Resident Tax’. Only the ITA website hinted that the Colombian Resident Tax and the ‘Other Taxes and Fees’ listed on Detla’s website were the same tax. My call to Delta proved that I was right. They did charge me for this tax. But why, I’m not a Colombian resident?
Exactly, I’m not a resident so I shouldn’t pay this tax. The problem is that I bought a one-way ticket leaving Colombia. For whatever reason, their software then assumes I’m a Colombian resident and tacks on this fee. After talking to Delta they said they would reimburse this tax when I show up at the airport. We’ll see, but I’ve now made it my personal mission to get this amount refunded no matter what.
More Info on the Colombian Resident Tax:
Not only should I not be paying this tax but there is a special procedure for when I get to the airport so that I won’t be double charged (Once in my ticket price and yet again at the airport). At the airport there is ‘Window 19.’ It’s located next to ‘Gate 4’ and is the Tax Exemption line. Hedgehogs Without Borders lays this process out very clearly so I’ll just refer to their post for the specifics. However, to make their long story short, you go to this line and receive a piece of paper that’s stapled onto your ticket saying you don’t have to pay the Colombian Resident tax. You then hand this over to the various ticket security checks on your way to your flight.
So, there it is. My actual taxes and fees should only be 27% of my total ticket price. I’m flying with Delta but if you fly with American Airlines, JetBlue or another carrier out of Bogota then the Resident Tax may or may not be added onto your ticket price. You’ll never know what your being charged if you buy your ticket through any of the major airline search engines like Travelocity or Orbitz because they won’t tell you. Your better off buying your ticket from the actual airline’s website where you get a better breakdown of taxes and fees and you can call and confirm their charges.
A Side Rant:
It’s fairly clear that any government can charge added fees onto your ticket for whatever purpose they want. This isn’t just the US or Colombia squeezing some money out of you. For example, if I were flying to the UK they collect an ‘Air Passenger Duty‘ which is supposed to be a tax created for environmental protection but yet the money goes into their general treasury and not towards any special environmental protection fund that creates or helps preserve animal habitats, invests in research of alternative energy resources or helps cut carbon emissions. Or, I might get a bit peeved if I were flying to France and had to pay a ‘Solidarity tax’ which is meant to help subsidize drugs for AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases in developing countries. I’m all for helping to find a cure for AIDS or eradicating malaria but is adding a tax onto an airline ticket the appropriate way to fund such endeavors?
About the Author: Sam Langley
Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. Sam Langley has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
September 16, 2011, 11:52 am
When will you be arriving in NYC? Do you need to be picked up?
September 16, 2011, 5:37 pm
Thanks Al. I’m good on being picked up. I fly in November 10th. I should be around for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
September 16, 2011, 6:33 pm
Aww it is sad that your trip is coming to an end, but there may be more trips in the future and this gave you memories for a lifetime. I’m glad that you will spend the holidays with your family and friends. 🙂
September 17, 2011, 4:32 am
🙁 I don’t want your journey to end! I was enjoying following it. But I’m sure South Korea will have another set of eye opening adventures. though – almost opposite culture shock there.
April 4, 2014, 6:58 pm
The only flight search engine website that I have found that lists out all the fees in Expedia.com. I had many of the same questions and the expedia website broke the fees down which is what caught my eye. Thanks for the great post here. Does anyone have stories of going to the counter in Colombia and not being able to get their $36 Colombian resident tax back?
July 20, 2014, 1:28 pm
Oh, yes! We fly in and out of Medellin about every 6 weeks. And we have been ripped off for this tax at least 3 times. All of these flying American Airlines BTW.
First time, we were just ignorant American tourists. Waited in long check-in line for American Airlines, were finally told at counter we needed a “tax receipt”; had to stand in long line at the Aeronautica de Colombia window; guy looked at passports and handed us papers; took back to AA and stood in line again. Got back up to window, they had us sign the paper and gave us boarding passes finally.
Second time we passed through airport we were running late, so when they said we had to get the tax paper again, we pleaded that last time we didn’t have to pay since it was included in ticket price, so why did we need to do that again?? Amazed us by saying, OK, you don’t need it…here are your boarding passes! We thought we were brilliant!
Third time, we had lots of time and knew we could get the tax paper FIRST, so we did. Then got up to AA counter, checked in, handed the lady the tax paper, she had us sign it AND THEN SHE GAVE US ~$140,000 IN PESOS!! (about US$70) EACH!
Then I figured it out…..with American Airlines you pay these taxes/fees in ticket price. With the tax paper, you are entitled to a refund in cash. But then why didn’t we get it the first two times?? I suspect the agents pocket the cash most of the time. They sure did two times out of three in our experience!
Our son came to visit not long ago. We briefed him on all this and he managed to get his money. But if a tourist doesn’t understand, I suspect the money just disappears…..it’s CASH!
July 20, 2014, 1:31 pm
Oh, I forgot to add that this very morning, they didn’t refund to my husband…that’s the third time I referred to. He was upgrading and there was confusion about paying vs mileage. Anyway, by the time all that was done, he had forgotten he didn’t get the money even though he handed them the tax form. But he was through security before he remembered and you cannot go back out.
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