Heads up, travelers: Airfare is about to get a little more expensive, courtesy of Congress and everyone’s favorite federal agency (to hate).
Beginning on July 21, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will increase its passenger security fees from $2.50 per flight to a flat rate of $5.60 each way. These fees help cover the TSA’s baggage and behavior screening programs.
Put in place after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the fee is currently capped at $10, but with the change, travelers will pay at least $11.20 — or more depending on how long their flights and layovers are. Flights after layovers of more than four hours for domestic trips or more than 12 hours between domestic and international flights will incur an additional fee.
These fees are built into the total price of an airline ticket.
An extra few dollars here and there may not sound like much, but they can add up, especially on business trips. As the TSA detailed recently, a trip from Newark to Las Vegas with stopovers in Chicago and Denver on the way out and Chicago on the way back would count as one round trip and incur fees of $10 under past regulations. Now, that same trip will count as five one-way trips and the fees would total $28. Travelers who live in more remote locations and have to take connecting flights could also be hurt by the change.
The rate increase stems from a bipartisan budget deal passed by lawmakers last December. TSA says the fee will pay for "the increased cost of securing the nation's transportation systems.” Last year, the security fees raised more than $1.8 billion for TSA — about 20 percent of its $8 billion annual budget.
The House Budget Committee estimates that this year’s rate hike will cover about 43 percent of TSA’s 2014 budget.
The rate increase comes almost exactly a year after federal auditors questioned the effectiveness of TSA’s billion dollar screening program, saying that the agency has no way of knowing whether its pricey behavioral screening tactics are even working.
The fee hike also comes as air travel in general keeps getting more expensive. An analysis done by the Associated Press found that the average domestic roundtrip ticket, including tax, was $363.42 in 2013, up more than $7 from the prior year. The AP analyzed fare data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation, which processes ticket transactions for airlines and more than 9,400 travel agencies, including websites such as Expedia and Orbitz. It found that airfare has risen by nearly 12 percent since 2009. It’s only expected to keep soaring.
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