There Are Tolls in the Sky?

Everyone’s driven through or at least seen toll gates on the highway. But what about on an airplane? Are there tolls for flights? It may sound a bit strange to hear that airplanes have to pay tolls for flying in a wide open sky.

But there are toll fees in the sky just like roads on the ground! Of course, there are no tolls when Korean airplanes pass through Korea’s airspace. However, international flights passing through Korea’s airspace must pay tolls called overflying fees.

What was the world’s first overflying fee?

Overflying fees have quite a long history. In 1928, a man named Samuel Schuwartz from Germany demanded Lufthansa to pay fees for flying over his home. He is the first person who demanded overflying fees. At that time, there was no applicable written law in Germany, and Lufthansa rejected his demand.

With World War 2 and advances in the aviation industry, the concept of overflying fees gradually emerged. In December 1944, the US invited its allies to Chicago and signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which explicitly states airspace sovereignty. With this Convention, a rule was created that airplanes must seek permission before passing through unlike ships, which can pass through territorial waters without prior permission or consent as long as they meet certain requirements.

After the war, air travel demand exploded, which resulted in a larger scale of the aviation industry. Many countries began to collect overflying fees from international airlines. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommend collecting overflying fees based on flight distance and weight. Most countries follow such recommendations to impose overflying fees.

Why are overflying fees necessary?

Why should we pay toll fees in an open sky as we have not built any infrastructure such as traffic lights or paved roads like highways?

That is because while we are passing through a country’s airspace, we receive traffic control services from the country. For instance, when an American airplane pass through Korea’s airspace, it must receive traffic control even though it does not land in Korea. It must pay overflying fees to Korea later. The same is true of any Korean airplane using another country’s airspace.

How much are overflying fees in Korea?

Meanwhile, many point out that overflying fees in Korea are inadequately low. While most countries collect fees based on plane’s weight and flight distance, Korea applies a flat rate of USD 137 per flight regardless of weight and distance.

It is a tenth of the rate compared to major European countries and a seventh to eighth of the rate compared to Japan. Recently, Korea is reviewing how to collect overflying fees based on distance and weight instead of the flat rate.

We hope this post answered your question about tolls in the sky—overflying fees. Stay tuned for the next post with more interesting information about aviation!

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