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Airport Booking Strategy

Increased Ticket Fees May Be Coming, and Airlines Are Concerned

Along with the base fare and all those fees your airline charges, every airline ticket includes additional charges levied by other parties. The government charges a 7.5 percent excise tax, international fares include an additional $18 tax, and a September 11 security fee of $5.60, among others. But one such fee might be about to spike.

Airports charge a fee of up to $4.50 per flight segment, which funds airport improvements. And Congress is currently debating whether or not to nearly double it.

USA Today reports that airports are seeking approval of up to an additional $4 per flight segment, for a total fee of as much as $8.50. That might not sound like much on your ticket, but it would bring in a collective $2.2 billion per year for airport improvements across the country.

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As with many things, Congress doesn’t agree on this issue. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the $4 increase this summer, but the House did not. Congress should resolve the issue by early December as part of the larger budget process.

Airlines and airports disagree on the issue as well. Airlines worry that another fee will deter people from traveling—you read that right: the airlines worry about people paying too many fees. More specifically, airlines contend that tacking the fee onto a ticket unfairly associates the fee with the airline, when in fact, the airport is charging the fee.

“If [airports] want to do it—if they want to defend it—don’t hide it in the cost of a ticket that has to be published as the fare,” Nicholas Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, told USA Today.

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Airports contend that the fee is essential to the airlines’ business, and suggest airlines are nervous because airports can use the money to expand. Expansion leads to more gates, which leads to more competition, which isn’t good for airline profits. At the same time, airport improvements are essential to a smooth, efficient, and pleasant travel experience, which benefits the airlines directly.

Ultimately, though, passengers are the ones footing the bill. George Hobica, founder of our partner site Airfarewatchdog.com, says the fee is more or less fair.  “It is a fairer tax or fairer fee than a lot of other fees that people could pay,” he said, since travelers are paying to improve the facilities they use.

Readers, what do you think? Would you even notice an extra $4 on your ticket? Or are you tired of being nickel-and-dimed at every turn?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

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