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Airline trade groups file lawsuit against TSA to protect customers from higher taxes

Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization for U.S. airlines, and the International Air Transport Association, an international industry trade association representing some 240 airlines or 84 percent of global air traffic, have filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to protect airline passengers from higher security taxes being collected by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The petition asserts that the TSA is improperly collecting fees by both exceeding a per-passenger limit and collecting taxes for trips that originate overseas.

The trade groups laid out their case as follows:

Since its creation, the TSA security fee that passengers have paid was assessed on a per-enplanement basis and capped at a maximum of $5 for a one-way trip (maximum 2 enplanements) or $10 for a round-trip (maximum 4 enplanements) itinerary. Last year, as part of the bipartisan budget deal to reduce the deficit, Congress simplified the fee structure by creating a flat $5.60 fee per one-way trip regardless of the number of enplanements. Congress made this change against the backdrop of the existing round-trip cap of twice the maximum one-way trip fee and expected it to remain in place.

Now, the TSA is collecting the new, higher fee in a way that disregards the cap despite a letter directly from the chairs of the Senate and House budget committees, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), stating that Congress did not intend to change the definition of a round-trip cap on fees. Speaker John Boehner sent the same message to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

By ignoring the cap and the intent of Congress, TSA increased the fee by as much as 236 percent, depending on a passenger’s itinerary. One of the agency’s own published examples shows a multi-stop itinerary with TSA taxes totaling $33.60, three times the intended limit.

“TSA is overstepping its bounds,” A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said. “Ignoring the per-passenger cap and increasing taxes by as much as 236 percent on air travelers is an affront to the flying public and ignores Congressional intent. Air travelers are not an ATM for the government and should not be treated as such.”

Annually, commercial aviation helps drive nearly $1.5 trillion in U.S. economic activity and more than 11 million U.S. jobs. A4A advocates on behalf of the American airline industry as a model of safety, customer service and environmental responsibility and as an indispensable network that drives our nation's economy and global competitiveness.


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