Tips on fuel tax exemptions and other savings on overseas trips

Helpful hints on how to avoid high-cost uplifts and other price shockers at foreign FBOs.

Read fuel tickets carefully!

Air Total brand Jet A being dispensed to Gulfstream G550 at GVA (Geneva, Switzerland). Fuel taxes in Switzerland are particularly high and tax exemption opportunities are often minimal. Air Total supplies more than 250 international airports.

When completing a fuel ticket be careful to clearly indicate if you're operating commercial (with an AOC), private for leisure or private for business. Oil companies use different fuel ticket formats and every supplier has its own ticket format. This can be confusing for operators.

Wording on the ticket may be only partially in English, if at all. If you check the wrong box—private leis­ure vs private business or business vs commercial—it's almost impossible to recover taxes later, says Colt Intl Global Sales Mgr Jason McLendon. Coetzer adds, "If you're a com­mercial operator show your AOC to the fuel truck driver and write 'AOC shown' on the delivery ticket. You may even want to give the fueler a copy of your AOC to avoid any tax confusion, or problems, later."

Always confirm fuel quantity is correct (liters vs gallons), that you're paying with the pre-established form of payment and you're being fueled by the contracted supplier. "This is especially true in more remote regions such as central Africa," says Reid.

"You may have contract fuel arranged and prepaid, but a local fueler may still ask for a credit card or cash. Know who you are dealing with—in some cases the guy may be pretending to be a fueler." Be vigilant! Someone you've not contracted with may hook up and fill your tanks, and there goes your planned contract fuel discount.

Credit considerations

Avfuel maintains a widespread fuel network stateside and makes discount fuel available to operators overseas by way of its Avfuel charge card.

Major fuel cards are accepted at almost all locations in Europe, without prior notification or prepayment, says UVair Dir Sales Scott White. There are parts of the world, however, where fuel cards may not be accepted or may only be accepted with prior notification.

"You'll often pay for fuel differently than for handling as they're usually separate transactions.

In some regions—Africa, Pacific Rim and parts of Asia—we may set up specific credit arrangements in advance and forward fuel releases to the supplier. Fuel providers at some remote locations may ask for cash unless prior arrangements have been established. Certain fuel and credit cards may be accepted by your local handler but not by the local fueler. Pre­plan all fuel credit arrangements."

Even with contract fuel arranged at your planned locations it's always wise to carry several fuel cards. This provides backup options should anything go wrong with contract fuel delivery. Consumer credit cards may not be accepted and, if they are, you may pay retail price plus a percentage service fee.

"It's like walking into a hotel last minute and paying rack rate for a room," suggests Bistany. Contact fuel can represent a significant cost savings notes McLendon. "There are locations in Greece, for example, where you'll save a couple of dollars per gallon with contract fuel. In Europe, a lower base price for fuel is particularly advantageous as it lowers VAT (a percentage based tax) as well."

Fuel shortages, credit issues

Esso Aviation fuel truck on the move at YTZ (City Centre, Toronto ON). When making domestic flights within Canada you may be subject to goods and services tax (GST) with is similar to VAT in Europe.

Booking fuel uplifts at some locations requires 72 or 48 hrs prior notice. Standard notification at larger international centers is 24 hrs. Fuel shortages overseas are often predictable. NCE may run low on fuel over weekends due to a prohibition on fuel deliveries to the field between Friday afternoon and Sunday night.

During summer season Mediterranean-area locations may experience fuel shortage or volume limitations. Caribbean islands, dependent on fuel being barged in, occasionally run low—a good case in point is SXM (St Maarten, Netherlands Antilles) during high season. At remote Pacific islands you'll definitely want to plan on at least 48 hrs notice. Mean­while, natural disasters can affect fuel availability.

Recent heavy rains in El Salvador collapsed bridges, flooded refineries and affected airport fuel availability. Local strikes may negatively impact fuel availability and delivery in Europe. Your ISP or fuel provider can advise of such supply issues.

Successful fuel uplifts overseas

Uplifting fuel overseas is not difficult, or necessarily cost prohibitive, given adequate advance planning. Primary issues many operators face, and would prefer to avoid, are delays in fuel deliveries and high fuel costs at certain locations. Avoid most fuel delay issues by reconfirming uplifts in advance, sidestepping periods of busy airline activity and using FBOs with in-house fuel trucks when available. (You'll typically pay a premium for this.)

Fuel taxation and exemptions, particularly in Europe, can be complicated as each country has its own unique rules. While there are currently gray areas in terms of fuel taxation, we can anticipate increased tax enforcement over the coming year as Europe looks for new revenue sources.

If you're operating within Europe in a "private" manner, but claiming to be "commercial," authorities may soon crack down on you, suggests Coetzer. Bistany concludes, "The good news is that many fuel cost saving opportunities exist for operators who plan uplifts in advance.

Fuel quality is generally excellent worldwide and into-plane services are professional and efficient in most locations. Work with your fuel supplier during the trip planning phase for the most successful outcome."

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.


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