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Delta adds $3 surcharge between Europe, U.S.

Delta Air Lines on Monday added a $3 surcharge each way to flights between the United States and Europe, a day after a European Union law went into effect charging airlines for their greenhouse gas emissions.

Trebor Banstetter, a spokesman for Delta, would not comment on whether or not the law, part of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), was the reason behind the surcharge.

Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of, which tracks fare changes, said “this small change is pretty clearly related to ETS.”

RELATED:  European greenhouse-gas tax could inflate airfares

So far, Delta is the only airline to add a surcharge, though Lufthansa Airlines said this week that it will have to add the cost of the new law to ticket prices.

Environmentalists have lauded the ETS, started in 2003, as a way to combat climate change. The airline industry appealed the law adding airlines to the program, but the Court of Justice of the European Union upheld it last month. The program caps carbon-dioxide emissions at 2006 levels and permits airlines to fly 85% that amount for free the first year and 82% after that. Airlines will have to pay for the rest as well as any increase in fuel burning by buying so-called allowances from industries burning less.

The International Air Transport Association estimates that the initial cost of the ETS in 2012 could be 900 million euros (about $1.2 billion) and rise to 2.8 billion euros (about $3.7 billion) in 2020. Airlines for America, an industry association, has said the law could cost U.S. airlines more than $3 billion through 2020.

Lufthansa Airlines on Monday said that it expects to incur additional expenses of 130 million euros (about $170 million) in 2012.

“Lufthansa will have to pass on the costs via higher ticket prices, as recommended by the EU,” the airline said in a press release. “Lufthansa will therefore include the cost of purchasing the certificates in its existing fuel surcharge as of the beginning of 2012. However, it has no immediate plans to increase this surcharge.”

Both Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines told Reuters that they too are not ruling out increasing fares.

“It is inevitable that increased costs will be passed on to the passengers. We will share the details at appropriate time,” said Carolyn Leung, a spokeswoman for Cathay Pacific Airways, told Reuters.

The European Union could still face pressure to scale down its plan. According to Bloomberg News, China’s carriers today said they would not comply with the law, and a civil aviation ministry official from India said the country’s carriers might withhold emissions data.

The airline industry has argued that it’s doing what it can to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The ATA said in a press release last summer that “the U.S. airline industry improved its fuel efficiency by 110% between 1978 and 2009, resulting in carbon dioxide savings equivalent to taking 19 million cars off the road each of those years.”

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