The Budget Deal Is Going to Jack Up Your Airfare

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Bloomberg via Getty Images

Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza is a cheeky sort who revels in selling deep discount seats without any pretense of air travel being some kind of magical experience. To him, it’s a bus with wings and should be priced accordingly.

He’s just as direct about the taxes and fees that passengers have to pay. “Your effective government tax rate for this selection is 19%” was the admonition that came along with a fare quote on its web site. So you can expect Baldanza, along with the rest of the airline industry, will not be too keen on the proposal in the latest budget deal that raises the security fee we now pay to $5.60 for each one-way segment from the current $2.50 per trip leg.

The additional $1.2 billion the fee hike raises annually (in fiscal 2015, rising to $1.5 billion in 2023) will go toward more fully funding the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), those people at airports who yell at you to remove your belt and shoes and take your laptop out of your bag. That security conga line costs the government $7.6 billion in addition to the fees collected last year. The fee hike is aimed, like the rest of the deal, at trimming deficits.

The major airlines, which often have difficulty in raising prices themselves, don’t want Washington to do it for them. Passengers already pay $19 billion in 17 assorted government fees and taxes, according to industry lobbying group Airlines for America. (For instance, there’s a $2 carrier fee that Spirit records as “Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations.”) In a letter to deal architects Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Airlines for America pointed out that the TSA’s budget has increased by 18% between the fiscal years 2007 and 2012 while the number of passengers it screened declined by 11% during the same period. Instead, the letter asserts, TSA needs to get more efficient, partly by expanding “risk-based” screening programs such as PreCheck that allows frequent travelers to bypass the belt-and-shoes drill.

The airlines can scream all they want, but one thing to remember about the traveling public is that it’s not a natural political constituency. There are no Senators from Delta. (Although there have been Senators from Boeing.) That’s why travel taxes often get little resistance. Look at a hotel bill from just about any big or midsize city in the country, and you’ll always see a couple of room tax fees added on. Because what can you do about them? If you’re traveling to Chicago and don’t like the hotel tax rate, it’s not like any politician there gives a hoot. And since most people don’t fly that often and those who do are business travelers who aren’t paying for their own tickets the organized resistance has been easy to overcome. So once again, it’s going to be shut up, pay up and fly.

15 comments
Tommy34684
Tommy34684

Wait until you get to sit next to an individual that has a so-called "companion dog". Yes a "companion dog" that flies for free?  How are you going to handle it sitting next to anyone who has a dog sitting on his/her lap, not in a pet carrier?

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

What is amazingly missing from this article and the comments is an examination of why they need so much money so they can humiliate us and take away our nail clippers.   First, it should be scaled way back.  We do not need the amazing x ray machines that allow the TSA workers to see your genitals.  Second, it could be much better run, more efficiently, saving money.  Third, it can be outsourced for even more savings.  Fourth, it could be drowned in a bath tub for all I care.  We should be doing a lot more things with video cameras, on board marshalls, profiling, and far less personal shake down.  Oh, I said it, profiling.  You know, we don't have that many 80 year old ladies that are a threat.  People with little kids going to Orlando are not huge threats (except to the people sitting near them).  I remember the old days in Britain, not that long ago, when you did go through an x ray and you were asked a few sensititve questions  (did you pack your bag?  did anyone give anything to you?). 

markrmulligan
markrmulligan

Where we remember airline travel being glamorous in our youth, now we are weary and avoid it whenever possible. This Xmas, for example, we will be travelling from Washington, DC to Denver, CO by Amtrak. There were no security hassles like at airports. We traveled by Sleeper Car last year and had a wonderful experience, met interesting fellow travelers in the Dining Car and arrived at our destination relaxed and comfortable. 

drdischord
drdischord

Airline travel isn't a viable business any more.  Videoconferencing has taken too much of the business travel away.  Business travel subsidizes tourist fares.  Tourists won't pay what airline travel costs.  That's why it's dying.  Fiddling around with the taxes can't save it.

bobkhane
bobkhane

Tax on flying. Tax on buying. Double tax on income.  Triple tax on income in most states.  Why did we revolt in 1775 ?????

humtake
humtake

Good.  Flying should not be funded in any part by the government.  It's just another way the government has intervened in our lives just to take responsibility away from the people, creating a lazier generation than the one before.  Just like my generation has less personal responsibility than the one before ours.  The prices should be put on the people.  If you can't afford it, don't fly. 

black刘
black刘

According to the principles of economics, when the market fails to produce an efficient allocation, government can impove market outcomes. That's why Washington government wants to help these airlines. And the law of demand tells people that when the price falls, the quantity demanded rises. However, it dosen't work for the airline, because there is a large price elasticity of demand. so, the airlins company needs to improve their quality as much as possible to gain a good reputation.

vanceod
vanceod

I am so grateful I do not have to fly...I am so grateful i don't want to fly anymore

Openminded1
Openminded1

How about DOT fix the rail system in this country, like europe .

PacificSage
PacificSage

One more thing....how about spending the 7.6 Billion for TSA security on developing a high speed rail system between the 40 or so major US cities (with stops between those in between, obviously)


Sounds too 21 Century?

PacificSage
PacificSage

Spirit Airlines is cheap....like a plaid polyester suit. They are EXTREMELY dishonest and very EXPENSIVE. How about a $100 fee for checking a carry on bag, because the overheads are full? How about NO complimentary water?? I could go on and on.......


Avoid at all costs!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Because we were ruled by a hereditary monarchy thousands of miles away that we had no say in electing. Any more silly questions?

JamesGordon1
JamesGordon1

@humtake Driving  should  not  be  funded  by the  government  either  ,,,So lets  put another  $1  tax  per  gallon  on  gas .

raidx259
raidx259

@PacificSage  I disagree. All they are doing is charging for services used and space needs. 


Want to bring extra luggage, pay extra. If I'm flying for the day, just carrying a laptop, why should I subsidize your 200 lbs of luggage?


If I don't eat their nasty food, why should my ticket be more expensive so you can get a 'free' meal?

markrmulligan
markrmulligan

@JamesGordon1 @humtake Drivers can pay for all the roads they use and borrow the money to build them for all I care, and the bridges and tunnels too.