The next airline fee? Now 50 cents extra covers snakes, birds, cats and flowers on a plane


As fee increases go, this one is so small as barely to be noticeable. But when travelers are increasingly being hit for charges that can add hundreds of dollars to a family trip, well, every little bit hurts.

This time, it’s not the airlines, but the U.S.D.A. (United States Department of Agriculture). They already have had a $5 surcharge on every international ticket to the U.S., including roundtrip tickets that originate here.

The money funds the cost of department employees examining plants and animals entering the country. But not just by plane. The Agriculture Department also examines arrivals by train, bus and ship, primarily to keep agricultural pests and diseases from entering the country.

Since international travel is down, the department needs more money, and airline passengers are the easiest way to get it. So they decided on an “emergency” 50-cent increase in the surcharge, effective Oct. 1, 2009. Again, on every international ticket.

Now, in this case, the fee is probably be delayed, because airlines say they didn’t get enough notice. Apparently they need time to “reprogram their software.”

This all brings up a few questions. First, how can it take time to reprogram software for a 50 cent surcharge going to the government, and zero time to adjust the fuel surcharge, holiday surcharge, or any other surcharge carriers feel like adding?

And while looking for pests and diseases from animals and plants is a laudable goal, why are airline passengers being singled out to foot the bill? What’s next, an H1N1 surcharge on passengers to cover the costs of vaccinating and treating Americans with the flu? An inflight entertainment tax to help out the movie industry?

It’s not even that I think Americans are over-taxed. But I am beginning to think maybe airline passengers are over-taxed. Maybe because with all the games the airlines already play with fares and surcharges, it’s getting to the point of “just add or raise one more fee, they won’t even notice.”

(Photo by tnarik on flickr/creative commons)