So you're at JFK and there's your grandma, waiting in line at security, when she gets pulled aside by the TSA for a "special" going-over (while you do a slow burn). Guess what? You're paying for that.
You might be surprised at some of the things you pay for, courtesy of all those taxes and fees levied on that airline ticket of yours. I don't think you'd mind paying some of them, but it's not cheap -- and if you think the taxes and fees make up about 10 percent of your ticket price or so, think again.
Here's an example: you're so jazzed that you've scored one of those elusive $99 each-way cross country fares that you don't even care that it's not a nonstop. However, it's not a $200 fare either, not when you add in the taxes and fees. Let me show the figures for this roundtrip airfare:
Base airfare: $200
Federal Excise Tax: $15
Federal Flight Segment Tax: $14.80
Passenger Facility Charge: $18 (Note this charge can vary and may be lower.)
September 11 Fee: $10
Total airfare: $200. Total taxes and fees: $57.80 for a total ticket price of $257.80. And the taxes and fees represent 28.9 percent of your ticket -- almost 30 percent. Of course, this doesn't include a checked-bag fee (or Spirit's new carry-on fee, which could cost as much as $45 each-way).
So the price of your ticket has zoomed. It's especially high when you consider the taxes you paid on that Kindle you scored from Amazon.com. What taxes? Exactly. Unless you live in Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, or Washington, you didn't pay any taxes for that electronic gizmo.
Apples and oranges? Maybe, but taxes are taxes and no one's thrilled by them, so let's see exactly what we air travelers have to pay - and what airlines are paying - and who should be paying. Warning: you may not like what I have to say.
If you're flying within the U.S. these days, there are the four main extra taxes/fees levied on your airline ticket:
Federal Ticket Tax
This is a 7.5 percent excise tax on each ticket. It is collected by the airlines and passed on to the government for deposit in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which is the main source of funding for the FAA and the continued development of the air traffic control system.
Federal Segment Tax
Right now this is $3.70 for every flight segment, meaning every take-off and landing, and it too goes to the Airport/Airway Trust Fund. Seeing as how our air traffic control system is still stuck in the 1950s for the most part, I have no objections.
Passenger Facility Charge
This is another "per flight segment" tax, as much as $4.50 per take-off and landing, but it gets capped out at $18. Money from this tax goes to airports to help them fund projects. Some airports desperately need this money; some airports decide to erect wondrous monuments to the glorification of their cities, which frankly gives me heartburn.
September 11 Security Fee
This costs $2.50 per segment and is maxed out at $10 per roundtrip flight. The money finances the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). They do important work, but I know many of you aren't always crazy about their methods, and I guess when you hear things like a child's Play-Doh being confiscated as a potential security risk, you have to wonder.