Air travelers who made resolutions to travel more in 2018 may not be in for a happy new year. That’s because Congress is considering an 89 percent increase to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), one of the many taxes and fees airline passengers pay every time they fly. If approved, travelers flying out of Florida will pay up to $318.4 million more in air traveler fees this coming year alone.
The PFC or Airport Tax is one of 14 different fees tacked on to the cost of every plane ticket we buy. The current law allows airports to charge up to $4.50. The measure introduced by Sen. Susan Collins would raise that to $8.50 on the first leg of each flight. That may not sound like a lot, but a family of four purchasing round-trip tickets could pay up to $104 in airport taxes alone.
Passengers are asking why?
In 2016, America’s airports took in $3.2 billion in PFC revenue, the highest level in the history of the program. That’s on top of the $6 billion in federal funding which is just sitting in the Federal Aviation Administration’s trust fund. That’s money waiting to be used, that US airports can utilize. The argument that the airports need the money when they are currently sitting on $14.2 billion of unrestricted cash and investments on hand is nothing if not absurd.
When pressed by a Congressional committee to name an airport infrastructure improvement project that had gone unfunded due to lack of current PFC revenues, the head of the airport trade group was unable to name a single one.
It also belies a more fundamental question – Why should travelers pay for the total cost of running an airport when the municipalities and businesses that stand to benefit the most pay nothing? If the airports really need more money, it should come from surrounding airport businesses and the municipalities rather than from passengers. We are tapped out.
The reason, of course, is politics. Some in Congress and local Chambers of Commerce figure that they can get away with a sneaky tax increase by pawning it off as part of the fare airline travelers pay without having to anger their constituents.
It’s a bad deal for the millions of passengers who already pay more than their fair share in taxes. In addition to the Airport Tax, travelers pay a premium for parking, taxi and ride-sharing surcharges, and expensive airport food.
Meanwhile, Congress – who claims to be looking out for the little guy – just passed a massive tax cut that excluded private jet owners from paying an excise tax when they fly. Relative to what the normal commercial passenger pays flying coach, private jet owners – who happen to be among the biggest campaign contributors – pay pennies on the dollar.
Now, after a giveaway to the wealthiest among us, Congress is proposing to raise airport taxes on the little guy. Sad.
The good news is that airfares are down, more people are flying than ever before, and business is beginning to boom. Now is not the time to curb this growth by nearly doubling a tax that will make flying more expensive for our nation’s nearly 800 million yearly airline passengers.
Raising the PFC is nothing more than a greedy and easy way for airports to raise more revenue without asking their own municipalities for more funding. If Congress truly wants to ease the tax burden on the middle-class, their first New Year’s resolution should be to scrap the proposed airport tax increase.
Charlie Leocha is the chairman and co-founder of the consumer advocacy group Travelers United.