Airports urge Trump to ditch cap on passenger fees

Airports urge Trump to ditch cap on passenger fees

U.S. airports are urging President Trump to remove a federal cap on how much they can charge passengers for facility upgrades, painting it as a way to raise money for infrastructure improvements while also making airports more self-sufficient.

In a joint letter to the White House this week, two major airport groups asked Trump to lift the $4.50 limit on the fee that is added to every plane ticket, known as the passenger facility charge (PFC).

The letter is signed by the American Association of Airport Executives and Airports Council International – North America, which called the federal cap “outdated” and “unnecessary.”

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Airports generally want to see the PFC raised to $8.50 per ticket. The fee, which helps pay for major airport projects, hasn’t been raised in over 15 years.

“The arbitrary federal cap on local PFCs handcuffs airports and unfairly restricts their ability to use local revenue to build capital projects,” the groups wrote to Trump.

They also argued that ditching the cap would make airports less reliant on the federal government and would encourage more private-sector investment — two core principles identified in Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Trump, who has long lamented the country’s “third-world” airports, outlined a broad sketch of his promised rebuilding plan in his budget proposal last week.

The package would spend $200 billion in taxpayer money over 10 years to create $1 trillion worth of overall investment through public-private partnerships.

Some of the key principles underlining Trump’s infrastructure proposal include encouraging more “self-help” among local governments and transportation systems and leveraging more capital from the private sector.

Airports called ditching the PFC cap “directly consistent” with Trump’s rebuilding vision.

“It is clear that doing away with this outdated and unnecessary federal restriction would allow airports to become more financially independent from the federal government and help them leverage private sector funding for significant capital projects,” the groups wrote.

There is some bipartisan support in Congress for lifting the PFC cap. One bill would do so in exchange for trimming money from federal Airport Improvement Program.

However, Congress opted not to address the PFC cap in last year’s long-term proposal to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.)

The idea of raising passenger fees for airport projects has faced strong pushback from the airline industry, which argues that passengers are already charged enough fees by the government when they purchase airline tickets.

Lawmakers will have an opportunity to address the issue when they debate another FAA reauthorization this summer. Support from the White House for eliminating the PFC cap could prod Congress into action, but Trump did not propose the concept in his budget blueprint.

The president instead called for separating air traffic control from the federal government as a way to help speed up modernization efforts.