Bad news for travelers planning to book airplane tickets early next year—it's quite likely you'll be seeing yet another price hike. But this time, it's not the airlines or fuel prices to blame: It's Congress.
If the bipartisan budget deal that's heading for a key vote in the Senate is enacted into law, it will include an increased fee of $5.60 per one way trip—up from $2.50 per flight segment. The airlines have been lobbying furiously against the levy, given the taxes that fliers already pay (about 20% of the average airline ticket cost already goes to the government). But Congress couldn't resist a new source of revenue that it could label a 'user fee,' rather than a tax.
As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a television interview: "If a person gets on a plane, that person pays for their security rather than [someone] who never gets on a plane." The $2.50 fee currently covers about 20% of the TSA's annual budget and, once doubled, will offset about 40% of the agency's annual tab. However, skeptics point out that the funds aren't earmarked for security improvements, since the idea is to help bring down the deficit without—you guessed it—being seen as raising taxes in an election year. See my interview on NPR's KPCC where I discussed the increased security fee and other holiday season travel news.
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