Savvy flyers, brace yourselves for more airline fees. On February 14, President Barack Obama proposed a new federal transportation budget that would cut $1.1 billion in airport grants and increase the current air travel passenger facility charge from $4.50 to as much as $7 per flight.
This $7 maximum fee would apply to each leg of a trip, even on connecting flights booked on the same airline. That quickly adds up to some serious change: For a round-trip flight with one layover, travelers would have to pony up $28 each for the fee; a family of four would pay $112.
Although the planned budget would still give smaller airports some grant money (often used for expansion and safety projects), larger airports with healthier cash flows would not receive any government funding under the new plan.
Whether the budget will be repealed is up in the air, as Republicans (who have the House majority) and airlines (as well as their frequent flyers) oppose the law, which would charge U.S. travelers an estimated $2 billion more in taxes. Airline advocates argue that the price hike could hinder recovery in the industry, which finally posted profits in 2010 after losing billions during the financial crisis.
Nonetheless, perhaps this is all for a good cause: While Obama threatens airport funding, he is injecting some $53 billion into an ambitious high-speed rail project that would connect 80 percent of the continental U.S., save some North-Central states, within the next 25 years; key states, such as Texas and California, expect the first batch of funding by the end of 2011.
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