Posted by: bkivey | 7 September 2015

Fee-dle De De

I noted in a previous post that while booking some upcoming flights that the airline had found yet another way to ‘unbundle’ something that was previously part of the ticket price. Whatever the particular airline practice, every ticket includes several fees and taxes. The nominal price for my flights was about $370 USD, but the out-the-door price was $470 USD: a 22% increase. What in the world are we paying for?

I’ll note that my carrier Air Canada includes a page on their site explaining the fees.

The fees on my tickets:

Canada Airport Improvement Fee

The charge: $38.08 (we’ll assume USD throughout)

What it’s for: Improving the airport you’re departing from or connecting through. The Wikipedia page notes that the fees ‘are usually intended for funding of major airport improvements or expansion or airport service.’ Intended for. It’s worth noting that the US version of this fee is significantly lower than Canada, and appears to have more stringent use requirements.

US Agriculture Fee

The charge: $5.00

What it’s for: This is not easy to track down. Most of the hits are people speculating on what the fee is for. The best result is on the Airports Council International site, and even that doesn’t directly address the fee’s usage. It appears to fund invasive biologicals mitigation. That’s the best I can do (or the best I’m going to do for a blog post).

Flight Segment Tax

The charge: $12.00

What it’s for: Who the hell knows? All the sites I checked, including the FAA’s page on the tax, just note that it’s collected. For all intents and purposes, this appears to be a general tax levied on air travelers. You’re traveling by air, so we’re going to tax you because we can.

Canada Goods and Services Tax

The charge: $1.90

What it’s for: It’s a VAT. Wikipedia has a page on it, and there’s a page from the Canada Revenue Agency. Air Canada is adding value to my life by transporting me, so I have to pay a tax.

US Passenger Facility Charge

The charge: $4.50

What it’s for: From the FAA page: ‘Airports use these fees to fund FAA-approved projects that enhance safety, security, or capacity; reduce noise; or increase air carrier competition.’

Wait a minute. Isn’t this the same-purpose fee as the Canada Airport Improvement Fee? So now I’m paying for airport improvement in two countries. Well, I am using the facilities.

USA Immigration User Fee

The charge: $7.00

What it’s for: I’ll let the Government Accounting Office speak for themselves:

The air passenger immigration inspection user fee should be reviewed and adjusted to fully recover the cost of the air passenger immigration inspection activities conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection rather than using general fund appropriations.

September 11 Security Fee

The charge: $5.60

What it’s for: From the TSA site:

TSA is authorized to impose a uniform fee of air carriers. This fee, known as the September 11th Security Fee, is collected from passengers by air carriers and transmitted to the General Treasury where it is used, in part, to offset a portion of TSA’s costs for providing civil aviation security.

And how much do they collect? Hard to say. The most recent information I could find is from 2012 on a GAO page, and it pegs revenue from the fee at about $2 billion annually. You may want to click on the link; there’s some interesting language.

Air Travelers Security Charge

The charge: $9.68

What it’s for: It funds Canada’s version of TSA. Why the fee has to be nearly twice the US fee in a country with 1/9th the population is a mystery.

US Federal Customs Fee

The charge: $5.50

What it’s for: No good information. My surmise is that it funds the US customs service at ports-of-entry. Hmmm. It appears the airlines aren’t only ones ‘unbundling’ services.



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