Why Congress should ground its revenue diversion plan

If Washington has its way, it’s going to cost you more to fly. But that increase will not pay for airports or runways or safety or security. It will pay for highways, transit and bike paths. 

A provision in the U.S. Senate-approved highway bill diverts funds that airline passengers pay the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for security in order to replenish the highway trust fund. Moreover, the Senate plan would substantially increase the cost of air travel by indexing immigration and customs fees to inflation. In total, the bill takes $9.2 billion air travelers pay to keep flying safe and diverts it to roads and other surface transportation projects. 

{mosads}Money that is raised from air travelers – which they are told and believe goes towards aviation safety and security – should be used to directly benefit those who are paying into the system.  Congress’s plan is a money grab that completely ignores the rights of airline passengers, who already pay too much in taxes and fees to the federal government every time they fly. The burden to fund the highway trust fund should not fall on the shoulders of airline passengers.

Make no mistake. America’s surface infrastructure is and should remain a priority, and Congress has the unenviable task of determining how it will be paid for. We support enacting a highway bill that enables and encourages infrastructure investment. However, it is wrong to divert dollars airline passengers pay for safety and security to fund the use of highways – or anything else that is unrelated to air travel.

On a typical, domestic $300 round-trip connecting ticket, airline passengers already pay $63 in federal taxes, or 21 percent, a rate that rivals taxes on alcohol and tobacco. To suggest that airline passengers should pay even more in federal taxes for something unrelated to air travel makes no sense and further punishes some two million taxpayers who fly every day.  

This revenue diversion plan also runs counter to our nation’s economic interests. Travel and tourism are primary economic drivers for our country. Airports, airlines and federal agencies have worked tirelessly over the past three years to reduce unacceptable passenger-screening wait times at our nation’s airports that have discouraged travel and tourism in the United States. Technologies like automated and mobile passport control and Global Entry kiosks have significantly improved the passenger experience entering the country. Diverting funding will jeopardize that progress and cause passengers to face longer lines, more time and increased frustration when they fly.  

Asking airline customers to pay for the highway trust fund is a bad idea, and one that should have never gotten off of the ground. Congress can and should fix its mistake. Those who fly are counting on them to do so.

Calio is president and CEO of the trade association Airlines for America.

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