Airlines Extract Billions in Fees From Passengers
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Piecing Together the Cost of Flying
For years we at FlyersRights have been criticizing the fees and surcharges the airlines add to the price of a ticket.
This convoluted puzzle of fees has been added onto base fares for about five years now in the form of checked bags fees, penalty fees for changing itineraries, extra charges for priority boarding, priority coach seating, using frequent flier miles, food, beverages, pillows, blankets and entertainment – you name it.

The airlines have also been taking fees they already have and making them more complex.  For example, sliding fees for seat reservations and priority boarding based on the length of the trip. Charges to use frequent flier miles for upgrades for supposedly free trips are also proliferating. The airlines use the term “co-pays” to refer to those fees, which didn’t even exist five years ago.

For taxpayers, here is the catch:

There’s a 7.5% federal tax on every airline ticket. But the baggage fees are tax-free.

You get the picture.

When the airlines keep ticket prices down by shifting $12.8 billion to baggage fees, they save $964 million in federal taxes they would have owed if they had hiked ticket prices by that amount.

That taxed ticket money goes into a fund that pays for the air transportation system: airports, capital improvements and the operation of the FAA.

However, The Washington Post reports that in nine of the past 11 years, the amount of money flowing into that fund – mostly ticket-tax revenues – has fallen short of projections, prompting Congress to increase general fund contributions to cover the FAA’s budget. In both fiscal 2009 and 2010, Congress appropriated an additional amount of almost $1 billion.

To sum up, when airlines raise fees instead of fares, the taxpayers pick up the tab.


Untaxed airline baggage fees. To keep airfares down as fuel costs rise, airlines charge fees – which are federal-tax exempt – for reservation changes, seating, early boarding, meals, entertainment and baggage. Untaxed baggage fees in particular have generated $12.8 billion for airlines since 2007. If taxable, the revenue would help federally fund the air transportation system. 
Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Government Accountability Office. The Washington Post.

Top Disease-Spreading Airports:

The part of air travel that gives you a cold (or worse) isn’t usually the plane ride — it’s the airports!

Most of us don’t associate jet bridges and mo
ving walkways with the flu. Instead we worry about the airplanes: cramped, crowded aluminum tubes where a sneeze from across the aisle sets off alarms in our heads.

It turns out that the chances of actually catching something on a plane is low. You’d basically have to be sitting on top of someone to become infected by their germs. According to Aaron Carroll, co-author of Don’t Cross Your Eyes… They’ll Get Stuck That Way!  The airplane manufacturers have gotten air circulation onboard their products down to a science. 

Between drawing in fresh air from outside the cabin and passing old air through high-quality filters designed to catch 99.999 percent of germs, the air inside a cabin is replaced some 20 times an hour — far more often than in office buildings or in houses, which exchange air every 12 and 5 times an hour.

Add to that the fact that each row of an aircraft’s air supply is recycled vertically rather than moving forward or backward through the cabin — meaning airborne germs that survive the filters come back to the same row rather than spreading to other passengers — and what you get is a system that’s pretty hard to beat.

The airports, however, are another story. They’re tremendous incubators for disease due to the constant flow of passengers all day, every day. Pathogens are deposited, picked up again, and ferried elsewhere at an incredible rate, without the procedures that keep aircraft interiors clean.

Not all airports are created equal. Which ones are the worst offenders? That’s what a team of MIT researchers decided to find out.

Leading the top U.S. airports in order of their ability to spread a disease: JFK, LAX, HNL, SFO, EWR, ORD and IAD.

Great FlyersRights Partnerships 
 Flybags – the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. For more info visit

Napa wine shop benefiting FlyersRights!
Get into the spirit of the new year with a wonderful glass of wine AND support airline travelers everywhere.

Kate’s Final Word

Thank you for your commitment to FlyersRights. Words cannot express the gratitude we feel as we enter our sixth year.  As a reminder, FlyersRights Educational Fund is a 501(c)3 organization and your contributions are tax deductible.  
Please view a copy of our annual taxes here,, and see how your donations have helped FlyersRights!

Kate with FRO Logo

Thank you again for your support!

Kathleen Hanni