Your Airplane Ticket
May Not Be What it Seems
“Consumer Checkpoint” readers know
that we often zero in on questions posed about the airline industry
by consumers. We all know that a number of airlines are experiencing
financial difficulty, and it therefore seems a little like piling
on when we bring up consumer complaints related to air travel.
But rather than address a specific consumer complaint, in this
month’s column I want to talk about costs that are often
not fully disclosed—for example, in the ads you see in
the newspaper trumpeting low ticket prices for fall travel by
air. Your plane ticket’s added taxes and fees are costs
over which the airlines themselves may have limited control,
but you should be aware of them when booking flights.
According to the Ticket Tax Project, the taxes
and fees added to the ticket are considerable. For example,
the project reviewed 2004 ticket prices and found that the average
round trip fare was $268.29, but the added taxes and fees totaled
another $44.25, or nearly 16.5 percent more than ticket price.
This year, the Air Transport Association, known as ATA, also
conducted a study and found that the average passenger paid
$200 for a ticket and had $52 in fees and taxes included, or
26 percent of the total cost.
What taxes and fees may be added to your ticket?
First, a federal ticket tax of 7.5 percent is added to the base
fare and this is used to improve airports. Second, a federal
segment tax of $3.30 is added to each segment of your trip.
Therefore, if you are flying from Madison with a connection
through Detroit, you will pay $13.20 in federal taxes on the
round-trip for the four trip segments you fly. This fee helps
to fund the Federal Aviation Administration. Third, many airports
such as Chicago O’Hare charge a $4.50 “head tax”
to finance airport improvement projects. You will pay this fee
for every airport you fly through that assesses the fee, but
this tax cannot exceed a total of $18. Finally, you will also
pay a U.S. security tax of $2.50 for each segment of your trip.
This “September 11th” fee cannot exceed a total
of $10 and is used to pay for passenger and baggage screening.
All told, the fees and taxes may individually not seem large,
but they add up very quickly.
If you fly internationally, you will pay even
more in taxes and fees. Flying to Great Britain, for example,
you will also pay a $14.50 U.S. international departure tax,
$24.23 in a United Kingdom air passenger service charge, $37.27
in United Kingdom air passenger duties, a $14.50 U.S. international
arrival tax on your return to the U.S., a $5 U.S. customs fee,
a $7 U.S. immigration fee, and a $5 U.S. Department of Agriculture
inspection fee. Please note every country has its own tax and
fee structure, so it pays to check ahead. As you can see, these
international fees and taxes can add up to a significant percentage
of your total travel cost.
Confused? You are not alone. You can find a
list of the taxes and fees on the Air Transport Association’s