Airlines launch petition against airport 'tax'

Airlines launch petition against airport 'tax'
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The group that lobbies for airlines in Washington is launching a petition to convince Congress to oppose a proposal from airports to increase the amount of money that passengers can be charged to help pay for facility improvements. 

Airports have been pushing Congress to nearly double the cap on the fee that is added to every plane ticket, which is known as the Passenger Facility Charge, from $4.50 to $8.50. 

The Washington, D.C. Airlines for America group said Wednesday that passengers should sign its “Stop Air Tax Now” petition because they are already charged enough when they purchase flight tickets. 

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“Airports want to raise taxes on airline passengers. Don’t you already pay enough in taxes,” the group wrote in an email encouraging passengers to join the protest. 

“Right now you spend $63 in taxes or 21 percent on a typical $300 airline ticket,” the email continued. “If airports get their way, the airport tax will increase from $4.50 to $8.50. A family of four could pay $136 in airport taxes alone.” 

Airports and airlines have been locked in a battle over the amount of money that passengers can be charged to help pay for facility improvements for months. 

Airports have been pushing Congress to raise the cap on the fee to help pay for a backlog of improvement projects, arguing that it has not been adjusted since 2000. 

Airlines have countered that passengers are charged enough fees already and that airport projects are adequately funded in other ways such as the Federal Aviation Administration’s separate Airport Improvement Program. 

Airport groups have accused airlines of being hypocritical for opposing calls to increase the fees that are paid by passengers for airport improvements while they collect fees for baggage and flight changes. 

“Flight delays, overbooked flights, and high airfares continue to frustrate air travelers,” said Airports Council International-North America President Kevin Burke said in a recent statement. 

“Passengers are tired of seeing outrageous bag fees and change fees go to pay for poor airline management with little benefit to travelers,” he continued. “When travelers learn how the PFC can spur competition, lower fares, and enhance safety and security, travelers increasingly agree it's time to modernize the PFC. As fuel prices have dropped  more than 50 percent, consumers are still waiting for their savings on air fares.”

The Airports Council said Wednesday that it has collected 20,000 signatures for a petition of its own in favor of increasing the passenger fees. 

The airline group, meanwhile, encouraged passengers to sign up with them to let Congress know they do not want to pay any extra fees for their flights. 

“Wouldn’t you rather save that money for a summer vacation,” the A4A group wrote. “Don’t stand for this tax hike. Let airports know that this unnecessary tax hike doesn’t fly with you.” 

The fight between airlines and airports over passenger fees is expected to simmer until lawmakers approve a new funding bill for the FAA later this year. 

The FAA’s current funding bill is scheduled to expire in September, and airports are hoping to convince lawmakers to include the increase in the PFC cap in a potential extension of the agency’s spending bill. 

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."

-This story was updated at 4:07 p.m. to correct an earlier version.