Airline Groups Say New TSA Fees Hurt Passengers

Trade groups have had some tough words about a Transportation Security Administration fee hike implemented this week, saying the extra money travelers will pay isn't actually making them safer.

Your next flight’s going to cost you a few extra bucks, and airline and travel groups aren’t happy about it.

Effective Monday, the Transportation Security Administration more than doubled its security fees on flights—fees originally meant to pay for TSA’s airport security services—in an effort to help pay down the federal deficit. The change was approved in March.

The fee, formerly set at $2.50 per flight for legs of a one-way trip with a cap set at $5, will now be a flat $5.60 for a one-way trip. And if domestic fliers have planned layovers of four hours or more, they’ll pay the $5.60 fee twice. (For international flyers, it’s 12 hours instead of four.)

And there’s no longer a cap. In other words, it’s possible that a person could pay more than $20 in total fees round-trip, instead of $10.

In a statement, TSA deflected blame, noting that it is not benefiting from the higher fees.

“In accordance with federal law, the revenue generated from the security fee will be deposited in the general fund of the Treasury. The revenue is to be used to offset TSA costs for providing civil aviation security services, after stipulated amounts are applied to reduction of the federal deficit,” the agency explained in a statement published last month.

Travel fallout

The change has raised concerns in the airline industry, represented by Airlines for America (A4A), as well as among groups focused on travelers.

“The travel community can support user fees when they are designed to demonstrably benefit the users who pay them. Unfortunately, the recent adjustments to the TSA fee do not meet that standard,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement last month.

Meanwhile, A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio joined with Travelers United founder and Chairman Charlie Leocha to write a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole on the impact the fee increase would have on the public. They said people traveling to and from smaller cities would be hit hardest.

“TSA’s proposed changes will result in passengers paying more than Congress intended and also require significant programmatic changes that will take at least 90 days to develop and test,” the two leaders wrote to Pistole in March [PDF]. “This change will disproportionately hurt consumers from small and rural communities who must often use more one-way trips to reach their final destination.”

In comments last week to NBC News, A4A Senior Vice President Sharon Pinkerton added that the security fee increase was expected to generate more than a $1 billion per year, “and the icing on the cake for air passengers is that most of those fees aren’t going back into the TSA program to improve security.”

(photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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