National poll shows the public hates proposed increases In airport taxes
Some airport executives and some members of Congress have called for an increase to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). This is a tax that travelers pay when using U.S. airports. Travelers pay $4.50 every time they take off from a US airport. That means an $18 tax every time they take a connecting round trip.
Travelers United and its members have been battling any increase in the passenger facility charge or PFC. These fees make passengers solely responsible for paying virtually all airport operating costs. Passengers are paying enough. Unseen by passengers is a 7.5 percent excise tax charge on every airfare. And, the passenger’s tax burden is even higher when TSA Security Fees ($11.20 round trip) and Airline Segment Fees ($4.20 per takeoff) are added to the mix.
On a $100 bargain, round-trip, connecting flight ticket passengers are paying a total of $42.28 in taxes already
A simple round-trip connecting flight will cost $37.60 in passenger flight and security fees plus an additional 7.5 percent. That means that a ticket that is sold for $100 will have $42.28 in taxes included in that overall cost. That means that the airlines are only bringing in less than $58 from a $100 airfare. A $200 airfare will result in almost $50 in taxes per passenger. A family of four would end up paying almost $200 in taxes if their overall airfare is $800 or $200 apiece.
Now, airports and their partners in Congress want to unleash the possibility that airlines may have no limit on what they can charge passengers. At the same time, surrounding businesses that use the airport to make hefty profits are paying no taxes at all. Hotels, office buildings, off-airport rental-car facilities, and parking lots all escape airport taxation other than a couple of dollars whenever their pickup vans and buses drive into the airports.
More than 80 percent of Democrats and Republicans agree — no increase in airport fees.
By law, the tax is currently capped at $4.50 per flight segment and $18 per roundtrip flight per passenger, but the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure is considering legislation that would increase the tax, possibly removing the cap entirely. A new survey of 1,608 registered voters nationwide conducted by Whitman Insight Strategies (WINS) indicates that 80 percent oppose increasing the PFC tax. Opposition to proposed PFC increases is bipartisan, with 83 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Republican voters expressing their opposition in the poll.
The poll data suggest passengers have a strong opposition to PFC increases. These additional tax benefit going to airports is not a necessary tax increase on average Americans. Plus, it ends up putting infrastructure spending to work on the wrong transportation priorities.
America’s airports are in good shape — there is no need for more taxes
According to the survey, most Americans (65 percent) are satisfied with the quality of the country’s airports, and 85 percent believe that airports already receive enough in taxpayer subsidies to fund improvement projects. Aside from paying the existing PFC taxes, most Americans surveyed said that in the past year they had spent money in airports on food/beverages (66 percent), on WiFi access (62 percent), and on sit-down meals or drinks (53 percent) – all additional sources of revenue for airports.
If infrastructure needs money it is not airports but roads, bridges, railways, and public transportation
Comparatively, fewer than half (42 percent) say they are satisfied with the quality of America’s roads and bridges, railways (49 percent) or public transportation systems (45 percent). And according to the poll, a majority (56 percent) of Americans believe that the quality and condition of the country’s roads and bridges has gotten worse over the past 5 years. When queried specifically about transportation infrastructure priorities, 82 percent of the country would prefer to see Congress spend time and resources funding road, rail and port improvements instead of airports. “Opposition to increasing the PFC tax is overwhelming and bipartisan,” said Scott Kotchko, President of Whitman Insight Strategies, the firm that conducted the poll. “The average American thinks our airports themselves are great, that they’re already well-funded, and believes that Congress should focus on improving our crumbling roads and bridges instead of taxing families to give more money to airports. It’s the transportation version of the rich getting richer,” Mr. Kotchko continued.
The national survey of 1,608 registered voters was conducted online from July 9 to July 14, 2019, by Whitman Insight Strategies on behalf of Airlines for America (A4A). The margin of error for the total sample is ±2.44% at the 95% confidence level. The sampling procedure was designed to ensure that the sample is representative and projectable on the current population of registered U.S. voters. Whitman Insight Strategies (WINS) is a market research and insights firm based in New York City that serves clients in the corporate, issue, and political spheres. Airlines for America (A4A) advocates on behalf of its members to shape crucial policies and measures that promote safety, security and a healthy U.S. airline industry. A4A works collaboratively with airlines, labor, Congress, the Administration, and other groups to improve aviation for the traveling and shipping public.
Local businesses should pay their fair share of airport taxes if it is really needed
When Congress seems intent on taxing passengers as “users” of airports they ignore the local users of airports — businesses that service the airports. Who is the bigger user of an airport? A passenger who flies four round-trips a year? Or, a hotel or parking lot that makes a profit from the airport 365 days a year, 24 hours per day.
Local businessmen and women know whether they need new airport funding. Local politicians can go to their constituents and ask them for money before asking Congress to slap another tax in the flying public.
The 87 percent of the American Public who fly once a year on bargain fares pay the most in taxes
The neediest Americans pay the most in taxes. PFCs are not graduated taxes, nor are security and segment fees. Therefore those paying the lowest airfares are paying the most taxes as a percentage of their costs. A family of four flying on a connecting flight will pay about $200 in taxes on a total airfare of $800.
A businessman who pays for a single ticket that costs $800 will only pay less than $95 in taxes on his ticket. The rich will end up paying less than half as much in taxes as a family of four who is paying the same airfare.
Something has to change in order to make airline taxation less regressive. But, it certainly is not raising the PFC. Let’s tax localities which use the airports as their economic engine and let us find a way to increase the aviation excise tax rather than dunning the families of America who can least afford it.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 11 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.