Airline passengers in the United States could be about to face some new fees. Many travelers had spent the past few months anticipating an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). However, a new budget proposal for 2019 is skipping that fee. That doesn't mean that passengers are off the hook. An entirely new fee option has been introduced in its place. The 2019 budget is instead looking at increasing both Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fees and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) fees. The total increase in fees could force airline customers to pay $3 billion more per year.
A Closer Look at the Fees
The 2019 budget is calling for the TSA passenger security fee to be increased by $1. That $1 fee would be applied for each one-way journey. What's more, that fee would increase by $1.65 at some point in 2020. That means that passengers are looking at a total of $8.25 being added to their tickets by 2020. The TSA fee increase alone will cause passengers to collectively pay $2 billion more annually.
A fee hike is also being proposed for international travelers. This includes a CBP customs user fee that will bounce from $5.65 to $8.40 and an immigration user fee that will bounce from $7 to $9. These fee increases will add up to an additional $900 million coming out of the pockets of passengers annually. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines have all voiced their concerns over rising fees for airline passengers.
Why Airlines Aren't Happy
Airlines aren't excited about the prospect of passengers being charged more in fees. Passengers already paid more than $24 billion in commercial aviation taxes and fees in 2017. Any additional increases in taxes and fees will inevitably drive up the total cost of traveling for all airline customers and potentially deter people from booking flights. This is seen as a direct threat to airlines and airports because they are already under intense pressure to pay to modernize infrastructure and optimize the travel experience. An industry trade organization called Airlines for America represents many of the leading carriers in the country. The organization is urging Congress to reject all of the proposed increases for TSA and CBP fees. The organization is quick to point out that airline passengers are already paying 21 percent in taxes when booking a typical domestic ticket.
Why are airlines so hesitant to embrace more fee hikes? The reality is that past increases have done little to address aviation issues. Airlines for America is insisting that Congress should focus on returning the billions of dollars that have already been collected by the TSA and CBP. Those billions have been diverted from aviation security to cover deficits in other sectors of the government. The government has been diverting a total of $1.3 billion per year in TSA fees away from their intended purpose since 2013. What's more, a 2015 highway bill actually diverted CBP fees to pay for highway costs.