I just looked at my ticket from Washington, DC, to Calgary, Canada, and was stunned at the list of taxes and fees. Before the Department of Transportation (DOT) developed its full-fare advertising rule, requiring airlines to advertise the full price for airline travel, including mandatory surcharges, taxes and fees, I don’t remember such stark listings of the mandatory taxes and fees.
If there were taxes, they were hidden in the fine print or not mentioned at all until the final bill came your way. Today, the airlines are using this new DOT requirement to highlight how much they pay (well, passengers pay) in taxes and fees on every airfare.
Surprisingly, what began as a consumer-friendly regulation designed to keep airlines from engaging in a form of bait-and-switch marketing has become a mini-billboard for the anti-tax movement within the aviation community. The listing of taxes and fees certainly got my attention.
Here is the actual printout of the taxes and fees that I paid for my trip to Calgary.
I did the arithmetic. Taxes and fees come to 23 percent of the airfare. Wow!
What other activities are taxed at 23 percent?
“There are a few industries — and their customers — that pay more than their fair share: alcohol, tobacco, gambling and airlines,” says Nicholas Calio, president and chief executive officer of Airlines for America. “Yes, airlines.”
For airlines that, ironically, fought the full-fare requirement, the full-fare rule may turn out to have a silver lining. Now, the surprising litany of air transportation system taxes and fees are more in the face of consumers than under the old advertising rules. Consumers are noticing.
I know that rental car companies face a multitude of state and local taxes. The listings of those taxes can sometimes double the original rental car rate. But they are small potatoes when it comes to overall economic impact like airlines.
Honestly, I’m just beginning to think about this. Are these taxes too high? Should we pay for the airline system when we fly? Should we pay for all of it? What about the cargo carriers? Does air freight pay as much? Or, more? What about the communities that get jobs from companies that set up in their towns because of good airline connections? Should they pitch in too?
All I know is that I was surprised at finding out that the tax on my flight added up to 23 percent. It seems like I’m shouldering more than my fair share of this air transportation system burden.
And you? Do you feel airline taxes are too high? Are they about right? Do they only serve passengers? Or, do flights serve communities and businesses that create jobs and raise the total tax base for the cities, towns, states and the country?