They've got you, coming and going.
In hidden but growing expenses that seems destined to raise the
cost of flying, airports are increasing fees and imposing
surcharges to help defray their costs.
Some of these fees are paid by the airlines themselves. But
like merchants hit up for more rent or taxes, the airlines are
likely to convey the added financial burden to their customers.
"Sooner or later, somewhere down the line, the purchaser pays,
however many times it's removed," said Chris Privett, a spokesman
for the American Society of Travel Agents.
The cost of the direct airport fees represents about 5 percent
of the airlines' overall expenses, a slight increase from a decade
ago, said Barney Parrella, a spokesman for the Airports Council
International-North America, a trade group.
But the size of these fee increases at some airports has far
outpaced the overall rate of inflation, which is about 3 percent.
At Los Angeles International Airport, for example, fees have
tripled since 1993, even with a government-ordered partial rollback.
Sure, it's more pleasant to travel through a dazzling airport
with plush lounges and high-tech moving walkways. Renovations from
San Francisco to Charlotte, N.C., have expanded the gates, repaved
the tarmac, brightened the lights and made the terminals resemble
chic shopping malls.
The trouble is, someone has to pay for it. Most commercial
airports are self-supporting and don't directly receive general tax
revenue. Enter the world of airport fees, a hodgepodge of charges
collected from airlines, other airport tenants, and the passengers
This world is hard to untangle, even among aviation industry
experts. For instance, some of the nation's 420 commercial airports
charge airlines a fee for each landing. A few charge instead for
They base fees on criteria such as plane weight and size, but
each has a different formula. Moreover, the fees can pay for a
range of expenses that make it difficult to know which fee pays for
The complexity of airport-fee finances emerged earlier last
month when the government agency that runs Newark, N.J.,'s airport
upped the fee it charges passenger airlines by 25 percent, to $4
per 1,000 pounds of aircraft weight. The additional revenue is
intended to pay for a $350 million monorail that shuttles
passengers between terminals and parking lots.
That's in addition to a $3 surcharge the Federal Aviation
Administration has allowed the airport to collect from every
passenger since 1992 to pay for a $250 million monorail link to
trains serving the Northeast.
Lambert Field assesses landing fees based on the weight of each
aircraft, and the airlines that operate there collect the $3
"passenger facility charge."
Travelers who leave from Lambert and make connections at other
airports that also use the surcharges can pay as much as $12 per
The landing fees and passenger fees come atop a 10 percent tax
on domestic plane tickets that the federal government had been
collecting until it lapsed with the budget impasse in January.
The ticket tax is certain to be collected again. It contributed
more than 90 percent of the $6 billion raised annually for the
Aviation Trust Fund, which pays for improvements to the air traffic
control system and provides grants to airports. …