With the country’s airlines collecting a record of nearly $5 billion in baggage fees annually, Congress needs to increase the fee cap so that more money can be spent on airport facility construction and upgrading, says an industry leader.
Todd Hauptli, chief executive officer of the American Association of Airport Executives, asserts that despite the increased revenue from such fees enjoyed by the airlines, “they vigorously fight modest proposals that would upgrade airports and other aviation infrastructure.”
In a statement, Hauptli criticized the existing federal cap on such fees, noting, “We can’t meet today’s needs, let alone tomorrow’s, while maintaining a system that fails to take into account changed airline business practices and an airport financing model last updated years ago.”
According to a report just released by the federal Department of Transportation, airlines nationally collected more than $1.2 billion in baggage fees during just the final four months of last year alone.
Total bag fee collections for the entire year came in at just a little less than $5 billion.
In addition, says the DOT, another $2.7 billion was collected by airlines last year in change and cancellation fees.
Airport officials have long complained that the two decades-old federal cap on what is known as the Passenger Facility Charge, which is used to fund facility construction, is too restrictive and out of touch with the needs of today’s airports.
Projects that are typically funded by PFC revenue include new runways and taxiways, aprons, land acquisition, and noise abatement efforts.
“It’s past time for Congress to look past self-serving airline rhetoric and make meaningful changes to boost airport infrastructure investments that directly benefit the travelling public,” continued Hauptli.
The PFC is currently set at a maximum of $4.50 per passenger per flight. Some airport officials have called for the fee to be increased to $8.50.
Both the White House and Congressional leaders have said they are open to upping the fee. Earlier this spring Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she thought the idea was worth considering, commenting in Senate hearings: “The good news is, you know, nothing is off the table.”
But the idea has also sparked the opposition of individual airlines, as well as groups like the National Taxpayers Union, which describes the PFC as “just one of more than a dozen taxes, fees, and mandatory charges that burden passenger tickets.”
Because the question of upping the PFC fee has been tied in with Congressional infrastructure legislation, a subject that analysts say is for now off the table after President Trump ceased discussions with Democrat leaders, its fate is currently regarded as uncertain.
By Garry Boulard
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