The Transportation Security Administration didn’t exactly improve its popularity Monday when new security fees on airline tickets were imposed.
The former $2.50 fee on nonstop flights and $5 fee for connecting flights increased to $5.60 for all flights. The TSA also imposed an additional $5.60 fee on connecting flights with a layover of four hours or more.
Reaction to the higher fees ranged from outrage to blasé.
Steve Loucks, a spokesman for Plymouth-based Travel Leaders Group, said the additional fee for flights involving long layovers is particularly onerous and will likely affect U.S. passengers returning on international flights and flights in smaller markets where fares are already steep from lack of competition and connecting flights are less frequent.
“People on longer layovers are going to be double-dinged,” said Loucks. “We view that as airway robbery.”
But Lori Raduenz, president of the Minneapolis division of Acendas Travel, said airplane tickets are so expensive now that passengers won’t notice a $3.10 increase.
“Airfares are so high that the TSA increase is nothing in comparison. People are just taking it in,” Raduenz said.
She said 80 percent of her business is corporate travel and that the higher fee “isn’t really on the radar” of travel managers.
Congress approved the higher fees as part of a deficit-reduction effort with only a portion of the increased revenue going back to TSA for operations.
Rising airfares set a record
Airfares jumped 5 percent in May 2014 compared to May 2013, the largest jump in three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Increased consumer demand amid a stronger economy and fewer airlines flying fewer seats — the result of mergers and capacity cuts — are causing the higher prices.
The average fare from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer is $518, which is higher than 22 of the nation’s largest 30 airports, primarily because of the dominance of Delta Air Lines in the market.
The new fee is projected to collect $36.5 billion more than the current fee structure over the next decade. Of that additional amount, $12.6 billion is earmarked for federal deficit reduction.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission has no position on the fee increase but is very mindful of the TSA’s budgetary needs.
“If the TSA were underfunded, that would have an impact on airport operations. How it is funded, however, is less an issue so long as it doesn’t divert dollars away from other airport operational and infrastructure needs,” said MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan.
Passenger comments to the TSA website have been running largely negative, according to USA Today. The deadline for comments is Aug. 19.