Airlines, airports squabble over passenger fee hike

Airlines, airports squabble over passenger fee hike
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Airlines and airports are squabbling over a proposal to increase the amount of money that passengers can be charged to help pay for facility improvements. 

Airport groups in Washington 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. 

Airlines have countered that passengers are already charged enough fees by the federal government when they purchase flight tickets. 

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The feud has taken a personal turn as the groups that lobby for airlines and airports have accused each other of misleading members of Congress – and voters – about the passenger fee issue. 

Airports Council International-North America President Kevin Burke accused the group that lobbies for airlines of refusing to negotiate over the airport fee in a letter that was obtained by The Hill on Wednesday. 

“As you know, at the May 21, 2015 House Aviation Subcommittee Roundtable on Airport Financing and Development, Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo called on airlines and airpots to work together and resolve our differences on airport financing, specifically moderning the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC),” Burke wrote to Airlines For America President Nick Calio. 

“The airport industry strongly believes that working with our partner airlines and the members of A4A will yield a result that will not only help move an FAA Reauthorization bill, but also strengthen the U.S. aviation industry,” he continued. “There is a solution. We just need to talk about how we reach one that will benefit both airports and airlines.” 

A4A’s Calio responded with a terse letter that was also obtained by the Hill on Wednesday that accused Burke and the airport group of being “disingenuous.” 

“Kevin, you and I see each other frequently at...industry events and meetings, and we even testify together. Moreover, our starts have a constant dialogue about the myraid [of] issues on which we agree on on the one on which we do not,” Calio wrote. 

“So to suggest we 'begin' those discussions and schedule an 'intial meeting' on doubling the Passenger Facility Charge seems a bit disingenuous, particularly since we keep getting reports from the Hill that you are saying that we won't even talk to you,” he continued. “We have discussed the issue. We just won't negotiate it.” 

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. 

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. 

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."