Now airports want to hike fees

Posted at 4:21 PM, Mar 20, 2015

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Attention flyers: Airports are calling for higher fees.

Fliers already have to pay the airlines for extra leg room and checked bags. And the TSA collects its fees.

Fliers also pay a facility fee to use the airports every time they buy a plane ticket. Congress set a cap for them at $4.50 in 2000. Now the airports say they need more money, and they’re lobbying lawmakers to hike those fees to as much as $8.50.

The additional funds would help pay for things like better terminals and new runways, according to airport executives.

Airport executives say the federal government isn’t filling the gap between what airports need to build and the funds available to do it.

Construction costs have jumped, according to American Association of Airport Executives President and CEO Todd Hauptli. “Airports can buy roughly half of what they did 15 years ago with that amount,” he said.

Raising the fee by $4 is “a very modest request in a time of baggage fees and other airline charges that can total hundreds of dollars,” added Joel Bacon, the group’s public affairs officer.

And AAAE points out that even if the cap is increased, that doesn’t mean every airport will charge passengers the maximum of $8.50.

Airport executives argue the improvements will save travelers money in the long run. For example, if an airport builds a new runway and expands a terminal, it could bring another airline in to serve that city. That could translate into competition and lower ticket prices.

But airlines say the additional airport fees aren’t necessary and consumers shouldn’t have to pay more. The industry group Airlines for America says higher fees would amount to a tax hike.

“Under the current system, airports collected $2.8 billion in revenue in 2013 from facility charges alone,” said the airlines. “Even with all this revenue, the airports are claiming it’s not enough. They’re asking Congress to hike this tax nearly 90 percent and to have it increase automatically every year.”

Airlines for America argues that plenty of improvements have been made to U.S. airports: “Since 2008, more than $70 billion in capital improvement projects have been completed, are underway or have been approved by U.S. airlines and their airport partners at the country’s largest 30 airports, not to mention hundreds of other airports across the country. ”

The legislation that dictates the cap expires on September, which is why airports are gearing up now to try to convince lawmakers that a fee hike makes sense.