Air Transport World

Airport congestion got you down? Relief is spelled p-f-c. (passenger-facility charges)

Passenger-facility charges could help airports pay for improvements and expansion, and get the industry out of the trust-fund quagmire. By Perry Flint.

Forget about the Aviation Trust Fund and the $7 billion surplus. Forget about the underhanded way in which this administration and its predecessor have held funding for the airport and airways system hostage to the federal deficit. If possible, forget the absolute hypocrisy of the current administration's request for an increase in the 8% ticket tax while it is unwilling to spend what it already has collected.

Forget about the FAA's seeming inability to manage the air-traffic control system. Ignore the delays in the NAS plan and MLS, the controller shortage and FAA's unwillingness to prevent airports from imposing their own noise curfews and ill-advised noise-abatement procedures. Disregard the politicization of the agency at the hands of its parent, the U.S. DOT.

Now consider whether individual airports ought to be able to charge airline passengers a few dollars per trip to help pay for expansion and capital improvements. All of a sudden, it doesn't sound like such an unreasonable request, does it? That's the problem with opposing a passenger-facility charge (PFC): Stripped of all the ideological and emotional baggage that accompanies any transportation proposal from DOT, it just does not seem like a bad idea.

In fact, it's not and it may be the only way out of the trust-fund quagmire. Other countries have been charging them for years, and here in the U.S., "head taxes," as they are known, were legal until the early 1970s.

Then in 1973, Congress outlawed the fees. Not, it appears, out of philosophical or ideological concerns but rather, because too much money was going into the local treasuries to be spent on municipal needs rather than being used to improve the airports where the taxes were being collected. …

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