Get local airport taxes from nearby businesses, not federal taxes from passengers
Airports should spend infrastructure money properly and share their airport costs among all airport users – passengers and the businesses in the region surrounding the airport. However, with free federal money coming in, airports have not had to charge local businesses for their airport.
As part of the new infrastructure programs, Congress should not increase airport taxes (passenger facility charges — PFCs) on America’s airline passengers. Localities are not sharing the burden of airport costs with their own local taxpayers. Businesses surrounding airports are using these economic engines 24/7 every day of the year. Passengers, at most, only pass through occasionally. Airport funding focused on the backs of travelers is out of whack.
Chairman DeFazio (D-OR) is the fox in charge of the chicken coop (airport taxes).
The current Chairman of the House Travel and Infrastructure Committee, Mr. DeFazio, has long had a personal stake in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). He loves taxing passengers for using airports. Last month, he claimed in a speech before the Aero Club of Washington, DC, that he, personally, was responsible for the institution of this airport tax on passengers.
DeFazio’s PFC gifts billions of dollars that airports are using today to pay off past loans for airport construction. And, this makes airline travel more expensive for all. Local funding would place more of the financial burden on the regions whose economies are supported by the airports.
User taxes are fine, but businesses surrounding airports are users far more than passengers.
The claims that airports are “bonded out” and that airports need more taxes from passengers are simply false and misleading. As long as PFCs are used to pay off construction loans, airports will always be bonded out and will always need to increase taxes on passengers. Local facilities should be paid for with local tax dollars, not foisted on travelers.
- The PFCs (or federally-mandated taxes) are considered user fees. These PFCs are collected to pay for the use of airport facilities. They are not a substitute for municipal bond issues that are normally used for the construction of airport facilities.
- The real users of airports are local businesses, parking lots, warehouse facilities or office building owners that make money 365 days a year from the presence of the airport. The passenger who may take off and land about four times a month is only one user of the airport. Passengers certainly do not make the most profits for use of the airports; the surrounding region does.
- The surrounding businesses should bear the burden of construction and mortgages. Passengers are already paying around $4.50 every time they take off from an airport. The surrounding communities get the benefits of the airport for free. That is not fair.
- The federal funding rules create a false separation and bad budget requirements between airports and the regions that they serve.
- Today’s airport funding falls squarely on the shoulders of passengers. They pay federal airport taxes as well as parking charges, rental car facility fees, bus pickup fees, retail surcharges, taxi and ride-sharing extras, and more. Ultimately, passengers pay for the construction and operation of airports. Localities do not pay their fair share.
Congress, led by Chairman DeFazio, has created a federal airport tax monster.
The PFCs provide airports funding that never needs to be justified locally. Chambers of Commerce and airport managers never have to look into the eyes of taxpayers and ask them to foot the bill for airport construction. Plus, regions and municipalities use today’s PFCs to pay for ongoing debt servicing of construction bonds. And, if anyone were to check on airport construction, they will see that it is thriving and that the current federal airport funds are flush.
By increasing the current PFC rates, Congress would punish travelers and enrich local bigwigs who make money from rents and services while the source of their riches requires no costs.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past ten years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.