A group representing US consumers wants Congress to abandon proposals under consideration to raise the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap to $8.50 per segment from $4, saying the hike would “disproportionately burden budget-conscious consumers and families.”

In a May 10 letter to Democratic leaders on the House Transportation Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, National Consumers League VP-public policy, telecommunications and fraud John Breyault wrote that, while the proposed PFC hike “may seem like a marginal increase on its face, this fee hike could add up to $64 more for a family of four to travel when layovers are factored in.”

Breyault cited the record $30 billion of revenue collected by US airports in 2017, as well as the $165 billion in infrastructure projects that have been funded since 2009 at the current PFC cap level, as evidence that US airports don’t need the extra revenue to fund infrastructure improvements.

“As anyone traveling through our nation’s airports can attest, there is no shortage of opportunities for airports to obtain revenue; rents paid by gift shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, rental car and parking facilities to name only a few,” Breyault wrote. “Airports should utilize the funds they already have before asking Congress to burden American families and consumers with yet another tax.”

The letter from the National Consumers League coincided with a renewed push from Airlines for America (A4A), the largest trade group representing US airlines, which recently published a list of reasons not to raise the PFC cap. Among its supporting arguments, A4A said that raising the cap could create a “ripple effect that goes beyond airlines and airports,” potentially harming business at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.

A4A also said that travelers from rural communities, who make more frequent layover stops than their urban counterparts, “will suffer a disproportionate amount of PFC increases in comparison to the rest of the traveling public who frequently has access to direct flights.”

“Consumers shouldn’t be left holding the bag for a tax hike airports don’t need—it’s just that simple,” A4A VP-communications Vaughan Jennings said. “With revenues soaring and the aviation trust fund surplus of $7 billion, the last thing airport executives need is a blank check to tax airline passengers more.”

With opposition to the PFC proposal hardening, US airports and their mostly Democratic Congressional backers remain convinced, however, that raising the cap is the surest way to ensure they generate enough revenue to meet an estimated $128 billion in unmet infrastructure needs at US and Canadian airports.

“We can’t meet today’s needs, let alone tomorrow’s, while maintaining a system that fails to take into account changed airline business practices and an airport financing model last updated decades ago,” American Association of Airport Executives president and CEO Todd Hauptli said. “It’s past time for Congress to look past self-serving airline rhetoric and make meaningful changes to boost airport infrastructure investments that directly benefit the traveling public.”

Ben Goldstein, ben.goldstein@aviationweek.com