By Erik Wasson
Airlines win concessions in budget deal
Airlines have softened their opposition to the new House-Senate budget deal after winning some concessions in the package.
The deal struck by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) raises Transportation Security Administration fees that a broad coalition of airlines and aviation unions had opposed.
The increase will generate $12.6 billion over 10 years to replace part of the sequester cuts. The deal raises the fee to no more than $5.60 per ticket. Currently passengers on a single-stage, one-way flight pay $2.50 and multistage passengers pay no more than $5.
Airlines 4 America, an industry association, fought hard to stop the increase because it will result in higher ticket prices and could deter some travel. But behind the scenes, it pushed for and got two concessions.
At this point, rather than targeting members to bring down the deal, A4A is sitting back a bit.
“We are providing our views when asked,” A4A spokesman Jean Medina said.
“As we have said consistently, airlines and our customers are already overtaxed, and we are disappointed that fees on air travel were increased, and believe those higher taxes will impact demand, jobs and our economy. At the same time we appreciate the reforms in TSA funding that the conference committee incorporated and the recognition that exit lane staffing in airports is a federal security function,” Medina said.
The bill would require the TSA to continue policing the exits to airport “sterile areas" containing passengers already screened by security. The TSA had planned to make airports themselves responsible for monitoring the exits.
Airlines feared that airports would have passed the costs of the new responsibilities onto them.
The deal also eliminates an Aviation Security Infrastructure Fee that the TSA had assessed on airlines to help pay for screening. The lost fees are more than made up for by the increase on passenger fees.
The U.S. Travel Association said Wednesday that it remains concerned about the fee increase and wants to see TSA services improve as a result.
“It is concerning that the move appears primarily aimed at getting a big chunk of Transportation Security Administration funding off the strapped federal ledger,” U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow said.
He praised the provision on sterile areas, however.
Some House conservatives said that they still opposed the user fees on passengers.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said members had been told behind closed doors that airlines had been given concessions and no longer were lobbying against the deal.
“We were told the airlines got something out it,” Mulvaney said. “That’s how it works in this town. If you have a lobbyist, you get something.”