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"Sea-Tac pushes to remove cap on airport fee for flyers"


 
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sea-Tac pushes to remove cap on airport fee for flyers
Airports made their pitch in Congress today to raise a fee that helps pay for 
airport expansion. Nowhere is that money more critical than at the nation's 
fastest growing airport.
By Glenn Farley
KING TV (Ch 8), Seattle (WA)

 
SEATAC, Wash. - Seattle Tacoma International Airport's top executive testified 
Wednesday before the aviation subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives 
looking to raise a tax on passengers the airport considers critical to its 
future. 

Called the Passenger Facility Charge, or PFC, it is a fee you pay every time 
you board a jet. But the fee has a cap; the maximum is $4.50 that can be 
charged on each ticket. Up to two flight segments can be charged a PFC.

Airports want to see it removed. 

"There will be little available PFC capacity to pay for billions in projects 
identified in our master plan," said Sea-Tac managing director Lance Lyttle 
before House members that include ranking Democrat Rick Larsen of Washington 
state. 

"We may have broken the sound barrier, but we haven't broken the ground 
barrier," said Larsen in opening remarks to the hearing, which is addressing 
multiple challenges facing the nation's airports.  

Right now, the PFC is paying for $3.2 billion in capital projects at Sea-Tac, 
including doubling the size of the north satellite, a new baggage system and 
new international arrivals facility. But another $10 billion in capital going 
out to mid century could be constrained without a higher PFC, said Lyttle.    

Lyttle says unless the PFCs are allowed to go higher, those costs could be paid 
directly by airlines, possibly making the airport less competitive in the 
future.

"Without higher PFC authority, our debt service on the bonds to fund master 
plan projects will flow directly into the airline rate base and likely driving 
the cost to airlines at Sea-Tac to the highest in the nation," Lyttle said. 

Airlines, including SeaTac-based Alaska, are opposed to raising the cap. Vaughn 
Jennings, managing director for government and regulatory communications for 
the trade group Airlines for America says their position remains unchanged.  

"Saddling passengers with more taxes is not the solution," Jennings said, 
"Particularly given the abundance of funding resources already available to 
airports for capital improvements project."  

On its website, the trade group shows a variety of airport taxes in 2017, 
including a 7.5 percent ticket tax, international arrival and departure taxes, 
fuel taxes, and security fees.  All are in addition to the Passenger Facility 
Charge.  

The House hearing is part of the wider legislative debate to reauthorize the 
FAA, which has to happen every four years. Part of that involves continuing 
modernization of the air traffic control system.
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