As if the soaring cost of aviation fuel in the wake of Iraq's takeover of Kuwait were not enough to boost airline ticket prices, brace yourself for another jump in the cost of getting from Utah to Anywhere - with even more increases waiting in the wings.
Effective Saturday, air travelers will begin paying 25 percent more in federal taxes on airline travel as the tax on tickets moves up from 8 percent to 10 percent.Moreover, a portion of the air travel user tax will now go toward funding general government expenses, the first time since user taxes and the Aviation Trust Fund for airport and air traffic control improvements were created in 1970 that the money has gone for uses other than improving air travel, said Drew Steketee, executive director for The Partnership for Air Travel, a Washington D.C.-based coalition of frequent flyers.
"Dec. 1 is tax day for air travelers," Steketee said. "Air travelers have a right to expect that new, higher taxes will do some good. If not, it will be the same old story."
In addition to the increased tariff on airline travelers, operators of private or business aircraft will pay about 25 percent more in user taxes on aviation gasoline and jet fuel, while taxes on air cargo shipments will jump from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.
Under the new arrangement, the increase in the aviation-related taxes is scheduled to go into the general treasury for the first two years of a five-year tax program, but Steketee said an error in budget deficit bill language will briefly delay the diversion of funds.
And the new taxes are just for openers. The partnership said air travelers soon will also pay other new taxes and fees as a result of the 1991 budget act, including a $5 tax on arriving international passengers for U.S. Immigration (passport control) and a $5 tax on passengers arriving from outside North America for U.S. Customs.
Arriving international air passengers will also pay a tax for U.S. agricultural inspection and a tax to fund the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration of the Department of Commerce.
There's more. A new fee, the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), will go into effect next summer. The charge, of up to $3 for many domestic passenger boardings - to be levied at airports - will be implemented, Steketee said, after several legislative requirements are met, including adoption of the long-delayed national airport noise policy.
The PFC will be collected on airline tickets but paid directly to eligible local airport authorities, not the federal government. Steketee said the new fees will provide as much as $1 billion in new revenue for airport improvements - user dollars that will not go through Washington with the possibility of being withheld by budget politics, as has happened in the past.