In the public debate on climate change in Europe, aviation transport has become a bone of contention and thus also a target of political regulation. While the actual available policy instruments, their designs and effects have been extensively studied, their political economy has remained a rather blind spot of research. Therefore, in this article we explore factors accounting for the instrument choice in aviation policy. Revealing most different evolutions in this matter, the Netherlands and Germany represent appropriately illustrative cases for a comparative exploration. Based on the Political Process-inherent Dynamics Approach, we shed light on a highly complex and limiting institutional environment for aviation policy-making and ultimately identify diverging conceptions of problem structures as well as different configurations of party competition as main explanatory factors for instrument choice and aviation policy evolution.