Airports want to double passenger fees

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Airports are pushing Congress to nearly double the amount of money that passengers are charged to help pay for facility improvements.

AirportsUnited, which is a combination of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), argues the Passenger Facility Charge that is added to every plane ticket should be "modernized" by raising it from $4.50 to $8.50.

"At a time when there is pressure to reduce federal spending, modernizing the PFC cap would provide airports around the country with the locally controlled self-help they need to finance critical infrastructure projects without relying on scarce federal funds," the group say about the proposal in a post on their website.

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The groups are proposing that lawmakers include the PFC increase in the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding bill that is scheduled to come up for renewal in September.

They are facing strong pushback from the airline industry, which argues that passengers are already charged enough fees when they purchase tickets.

"The lack of a crisis in airport funding hasn’t prevented some from trying to invent one,” Airlines For America President Nicholas Calio said in a statement last week after releasing a poll showing 82 percent of U.S. voters are opposed to the airport fee hike.

“Since 2008, over $70 billion of airport capital projects have been completed, are underway or are approved by U.S. airlines and their airport partners at the nation’s largest 30 airports," Calio continued. "Voters correctly believe that airports have plenty, yet passengers are taxed enough.”

Airports argue that the PFC is long overdue for an increase since it has not been raised in 15 years.

"The PFC cap has not been adjusted since 2000, when Congress set it at $4.50," the airport groups' website says.

"However, rising construction costs have eroded the purchasing power of the PFCs by about 50 percent," the airport groups continued. "Modernizing the PFC to $8.50 now and indexing it for inflation would restore its original purchasing power, providing local communities the ability to set their individual PFC user fees based on locally determined needs for ensuring the safety and security of their airports."

Airport groups have responded to the criticism from airlines by pointing out that airlines have not reduced fees for baggage and other passenger amenities despite dwindling U.S. gas taxes.

"Surprise, surprise, an airline-sanctioned survey reached a conclusion supported by the airlines," American Association of Airport Executives President Todd Hauptli said in a statement when the airline industry's poll about the facility charge was released. 

"We are eager to see how respondents view bag fees and other ancillary charges that hit passengers with billions of dollars in added costs that do nothing more than flow to the pockets of the airline industry," Hauptli continued. 

The Passenger Facility Charge was first established by Congress in 1990. The FAA says "airports use these fees to fund FAA-approved projects that enhance safety, security, or capacity; reduce noise; or increase air carrier competition."