I’m thinking about making some travel plans for this coming year, but the question is how much more expensive is travelling by air going to get?
When I was growing up in South Dakota, aviation used to be a luxury. In fact, I never had taken a commercial flight until I was in college because of the expense. Today it’s a necessity, and quite within the reach of average South Dakotans, as evidenced by the increasing number of people flying for business and leisure.
In 2016, there were over 200,000 airline passengers in South Dakota alone. With millions of people flying throughout the nation on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that current projections predict continued expansion of commercial air travel. Making air travel more affordable and accessible to larger segments of our population is a goal we all share.
Unfortunately, Congress may not be completely on board with that thought process. There is currently a proposal advanced by Senator Susan Collins that would nearly double the cap for what’s called the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), a tax levied by airports and collected by the airlines every time a passenger books a ticket. With taxes and fees currently constituting 21 percent of a typical airline ticket, a drastic increase in the PFC will make commercial flights less affordable for thousands of passengers. While airlines have seen gradual growth in recent years, a PFC cap hike is going to restrict future economic expansion and lead to higher ticket prices.
Here’s the kicker: airports don’t need this increase. In the last decade, airports and airlines have finished or introduced over $100 billion in development projects. In addition, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), an entity that provides funding for airport improvements, currently has almost $6 billion in unspent funds waiting to be used. Since a PFC hike would result in a jump in ticket costs, overall airport and airline traffic would decrease. This lack of foresight by airports is disturbingly ironic: increasing the cost of something will lead to less of it, not more of it.
As conservatives, it is easy for us to recognize that this increase in the PFC cap will hurt travelers and economic prosperity in the long run. Airports have been unable to identify a single project that has gone unfunded due to a lack of a PFC increase, making the justification for it questionable.
On the contrary, the airports demanding this policy change are just another example of our bloated government bureaucracy. This cash grab will make air travel even more costly for thousands of travelers.
As South Dakotans, when airport lobbyists and career politicians make decisions that negatively affect our state, we should not stand idly by. In order to keep ticket costs affordable, we should encourage Senator Rounds and Senator Thune to keep up the good work in Washington, and to hold the line on airline taxes and fees for South Dakota consumers.
Let’s keep those planes flying!