Airline security fees could soar under Obama budget plan

by Christopher Elliott on February 27, 2009

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The federal government charges airline passengers a $2.50 per leg “September 11th Security Fee.” In its latest budget proposal, which includes big spending increases for transportation projects, the Obama administration drops a bomb on travelers: it’s not enough.

Not by a long shot.

The fee captures only 36 percent of the cost of providing aviation security, and the increased fee — which it declines to name — will result in passengers paying “a majority” of the estimated cost of passenger and baggage screening by 2012.

The budget doesn’t address the question of whether the elaborate (and some would argue, ineffective) security measures currently in place at America’s airports should be continued.

The Air Transportation Association, the lobbying arm of the airline industry, opposes these open-ended fee hikes. A spokesman for the organization said airlines shouldn’t be responsible for security.

We believe that aviation security is a U.S. government responsibility. These costs should not be on the backs of airlines and their customers.

This is one of those rare times when the airlines and their passengers are on the same page.

If you’re going to spend $70 billion on transportation, how about sparing a little for a smarter Transportation Security Administration instead of socking airline passengers with the bill?

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  • Jonathan

    I am of the opinion that our current airport security scheme is wasteful and ineffective and needs to be rethought. However, putting that aside, if you accept that at least for the near future we’ll be stuck with the status quo of security theater, doesn’t it make sense that we the traveling public bear the brunt of the cost? After all, if we weren’t flying, these security checks wouldn’t be needed. Besides, the cost of this security fee is not particularly onerous: a full 50% increase would still be just $3.75 per segment (less than the cost of a drink on board, far less than many of the unbundled extras such as a first checked bag) and would cover more than half of the cost of providing security if the present fee covers 36% of this cost.

  • Jonathan

    P.S. – Why is the ATA up in arms about this? Because the government might skim a bit from the well that their airline members abuse? After all, the security fee doesn’t come out of airline pockets. Even if there is a marginal cost to the airline to collect this fee on the behalf of the TSA, this marginal cost doesn’t increase when the fee does. Is there more to this story than the passenger-paid fee discussed here and in the linked CNN coverage?

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