SEA-TAC AIRPORT -– Airlines are pushing to cut and simplify the array of taxes and fees tacked onto passenger ticket prices.
Passengers who board a plane at Sea-Tac airport currently have $13.62 added to their ticket price to cover airport landing fees, and gate and ticket counter leases. On top of that there is a $4.50 Federal Passenger Facility Charge that helps pay for improvements at airports. A ticket for a round-trip direct flight would assess the “PFC” twice -- once for each direction. A flight to the same destination that included multiple stops could see the PFC tacked on multiple times -- once for each segment. Add to that the Federal Flight Segment tax (there is such a thing) of $3.50, and the Federal Security Surcharge of $2.50 per hop. Then there's the Federal Ticket Tax of $17.92.
According to the U.S. airline trade group Airlines for America, a flight that involves two stopovers and with a base far of $238 will actually cost the buyer $300 after $61.12 in taxes is added -- 25.6 percent of the total cost of that ticket (the percentage varies from ticket to ticket depending on the fare). Airlines say that added cost discourages people from flying.
Since 1990, airlines say the number of taxes has swelled from six to 17.
KING 5 asked a travel expert run numbers for two flights from Sea-Tac to LAX, one direct, and another on Delta going through the airline's hub in Salt Lake City. The extra stopover doubled taxes to more than $43.20.
“There is no doubt, governments consider passengers as piggy banks,” said Steve Danishek of TMA Incorporated. Danishek, who closely studies what airlines charge and how much, said, “This is worldwide, this is not just the U.S.”
If anything, the United States is cheap relative to Europe, where Danishek said taxes can easily amount to 50 percent of a ticket's price.
The airlines are pushing the tax issue now as part of a broader reform. Airlines want a national airline policy, less regulation, a modernized air traffic system and stabilized energy prices. Fuel is one of the airlines' biggest costs.
But airports and the FAA say the taxes and fees are essential. That security fee helps fund the Transportation Security Administration, for example.
A spokesman for Sea-Tac said airport authorities need to be part of the discussion on rationalizing taxes, that there should be a national aviation policy, not just one for the airlines.