Ahead of an upcoming fight over spending bills, airports and other stakeholders are urging Congress to remove the federal cap on the amount of money that airports can charge passengers to help pay for facility improvements.
In a letter to the House and Senate, members of Airports Council International’s “Beyond the Runway Coalition” called on lawmakers to lift the $4.50 limit on the fee that is added to every plane ticket, known as the passenger facility charge (PFC), in the fiscal 2018 omnibus.
The Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed the idea earlier this year, pitching it as a way to help pay for the nation’s aging infrastructure.
“Efforts to improve airport infrastructure come at a critical time – with passenger enplanements at a record high and federal infrastructure investments stagnant,” the letter says. “All airports would benefit from having the ability to generate more local revenue for runways, taxiways, terminals, gates, and other projects that would advance safety and security, increase capacity, and improve the overall passenger experience.”
The fee, which helps pay for major airport projects, hasn’t been raised in more than 15 years. Airports are facing more than $100 million in unmet infrastructure needs at the same time that the number of airline passengers is expected to grow, which will only further strain the system.
Supporters argue that lifting the PFC cap would allow airports greater flexibility to improve capacity, add runways, modernize facilities, reduce noise and stimulate competition among airlines.
They also believe the concept could gain traction under the Trump administration, because it would make airports less reliant on the federal government and would encourage more private-sector investment — two core principles that President Trump wants to include in his infrastructure proposal.
But the increase has faced fierce pushback from the airline industry, which argues that passengers are already charged enough fees by the government when they purchase airline tickets.
Airlines for America, which represents most of the nation’s major airlines, has sent its own letter to Congress urging lawmakers to keep the cap in place in any spending legislation.