Your Ticket Taxes Fund Corporate Jets

Billions of dollars in the taxes and fees you pay on airline tickets are being funneled to make upgrades at small airports used mainly by corporate jets and private pilots, the AP reports.

J.T. Wilson Field in Somerset, Ky. got more than $12 million since 2001, much of it through the influence of local Rep. Hal Rogers, a longtime Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee who uses the airfield for trips home. Wilson Field is home base to 26 small planes and one jet. Despite millions in improvements, including a passenger terminal, the airport has yet to see scheduled commercial service.

The fees we pay on airfare can add up to 25% of the total ticket cost. This misappropriation is scandalous. — BEN POPKEN

Ticket taxes fund corporate jets [AP] (Thanks to Ben!)


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  1. velocipenguin says:

    I’m rather curious as to why Plattsburgh International (formerly Plattsburgh AFB) needed runway upgrades, given that it is a former SAC base equipped with the massive 12,000′ runways needed to handle fully-loaded B-52s. Am I missing something?

  2. tvh2k says:

    Just FYI, those small airports are also used for the Civil Air Patrol to launch their Cessna 172s and 182 in support of Search and Rescue, Disaster Relief, and Homeland Security missions. Additionally the airports provide emergency landing locations for commercial flights, as well as contribute to the hobby of General Aviation.

  3. Ben Popken says:

    @tvh2k: Certainly, all the more reason why those airports don’t need those fancy jet accommodation upgrades.

  4. velocipenguin says:


    I’m all for general aviation, but I think those who operate their own aircraft should be paying for the necessary facilities upgrades – not commercial airline passengers who use large airports that have their own sources of funding.

    I’m also a bit suspicious of the idea that these funds are being used to turn 1700-foot grass strips into facilities capable of landing a 767 full of passengers. That would require roughly quadrupling the length of the runway, which is not likely to be feasible in the vast majority of situations.

  5. phildeaux says:

    Not only does this make me feel safer, this also makes me want to land my G-V at each and every one of these airports, just to get my money’s worth. Maybe Travolta can fly me. Plattsburg here I come.

  6. Law-Vol says:

    Based on the probable future of air travel, using smaller, lighter jets to move people from point to point, rather than from hub to hub, I think this is money well spent.

    New technologies are driving the cost of aircraft down rapidly: a small jet today costs less than half what it did just ten years ago.

    Hub-and-spoke is the reason the legacy carriers are totally crapified. If funding a few extra landing strips now gets me faster, cheaper, more convenient (and comefortable) air travel in 20 years…I’m all for it.

  7. crnk says:

    Totally misleading title. Our ticket taxes do nothing to FUND corporate jets. In actuality, the argument is that they are funding AIRPORTS and facilities that corporate jets and personal aircraft take advantage of more than scheduled service passenger aircraft do.

    As for “people should pay for what they use” bit, I’d say its totally unfair and wrong to expect a handful of aircraft that may land at an airport in a day to foot the bill for the operations of that airport for the entire day. It would be like suggesting the few dozen cars on a country road each day pay more to drive it than other roads, because it is less used, therefore uses a high amount of services for the number of vehicles.

  8. mendel says:

    crnk’s on the right track there. General aviation is general aviation, whether it’s sightseeing trips, Civil Air Patrol, private and student pilots, commuter airlines, bush pilots, or corporate jets. And yes, taxes for airport improvements don’t just go to the airport you’re flying out of, just like taxes for Interstate maintenance don’t just go to your local highway.

    (Besides, the pilots flying those airliners are only there because of a decade or two flying the little birds. You can’t have a competitive aviation industry that’s only comprised of major carriers.)

  9. Odwalla says:

    The wire story that is in about every newspaper today is based on a study funded by the airlines. The airlines have been trying (unsuccessfully) for years to get the FAA to switch to a pay per use system. A pay as you go system would push a disproportionate percentage of fees on General Aviation users to the benefit of the airlines. Do not think for a second that this would reduce the cost of an airline ticket. The only reason the airlines want this is so that they can keep the prices where they are and pocket more profits.

    With the airline travel system in this country getting overloaded to the point of collapse the idea of hub-to-hub airtravel will start to wane. The only institutions that do not want this are the large carriers, hence their attack on the funding going to smaller airports. With the upcoming class of very light jets entering in to service you’ll see more direct point-to-point travel between smaller airports. That will provide air travel with shorter security lines, less congestion, and more competition. The taxes you pay for the upkeep of the air transit system should go to all airports, not just those that the big carriers want to service. If you buy in to their argument all you are doing is arguing that your tax money should go to prop up their antiquated business model.

  10. MaggieLeber says:

    The spin on this is extremely misleading; designed to whip up a frenzy against “private airports” and “private jets”. In fact, the airports in question are *not* private, and the aircraft that use them are mostly *not* jets.

    General aviation serves not only business transporting executives, but also air ambulance, search and rescue, agricultural, fire fighting, pilot training, sight seeing, on-demand air taxi and air cargo operations. They serve as traffic relievers for larger hub airports, increasing their ability to handle airline traffic.

    Truly private airports (yes, they do exist, but are very few in number) are usually small unpaved landing sites used by very small or ultralight aircraft, and do *not* receive Federal funds. The airports this article referrs to are open for public use; they are often municipal or county airports that provide the only air service available outside the major airline hubs.

    This media campaign is being orchestrated by the airlines, who–facing severe profitability pressure driven by rising fuels costs and mismanagement–are trying to ram through a new “user fee” scheme that allows them to shuffle off some of the costs of FAA facilities needed and used mostly by airline operations onto the other lower volume users of the National Airspace System.

  11. Bob says:

    Our tax dollars also subsidize Amtrack, most big city bus systems, etc. It’s all a scam.

  12. crnk says:

    @Bob: Several notes for you, if you forgot. First, Amtrak (no C) is primarily owned by the government, as they control all voting stock. “Big city bus systems” are operated by public agencies. In both cases, they are not private or publicly traded corporations—as the airline industry is.
    Secondly, Amtrak and “big city bus systems” are not in a competitive market and are public services.
    Third, a SCAM? HOW? They’re just taking advantage of the money the government allots them. IF there is a scam or fraud in the organizations, as you’ve indicated, that should be reported to the police and FBI for investigation and should not be tolerated. I doubt you’ll find a public agency providing public services defrauding the government (if you get that joke).

  13. SowndOfDeth says:

    Maybe you guys ought to read more on VLJs

    Check out this company from Florida : who proclaim to reduce your travel time and waiting times at the airports.

  14. Bourque77 says:

    What you mean that small airports where congressmen might fly into are getting more money than they actually should? No way. They make the decisions and they would rather have a nicer airport than you lowly taxpayers, ahh good ole uncle sam.

  15. Sudonum says:

    I’m no avation expert by any means. Prior to 9/11 I used to fly 50-100,000 miles per year so I did spend a lot of time in airports, large airports serviced by the major carriers. If I recall, the “hub and spoke” system that several commenters decried as old and antiquated was a child of de-regulation. And, once again, I am no expert, but it would seem to me that it is an efficent way to move large numbers of bodies to numerous and various destinations. How efficient would it be to have several non-stop half-full flights a day from say, Denver to Austin Tx? Austin is not a large city, but I’m sure it gets fair share of travellers. Would it be more efficient to have several small jets with, say 6-8 passengers each, taking the same number of people that a 727 would? Isn’t that what we have now on the ground with the automobile? Or perhaps would have if everyone car-pooled? Is that more efficient than those same people taking the bus? Isn’t that what a large airliner is? A bus that flies?

    I have been staying abrest of the strides made with VLJ’s and “Air Taxi” services. They are bridging the gap between private plane ownership and the major carriers. And show some major promise serving very small markets, however they still have a long way to go.

    The “road tax” anology is another false one in my mind. Taxes I pay to register my vehicle stay in my state. Taxes I pay on the gas I put in my vehicle go to my city, my county, my state, and the federal treasury. While my state may generate X number of dollars in federal highway taxes, my state might not receive that same amount in funds, while another state may receive a greater percentage than they contribute. I don’t necessarily agree with system as it relates to highways, and I sure don’t agree with it when it comes to airports. Taxes generated by General Avaition should support General Avaition. The registration fees, fuel taxes, and landing fees are all that should be funding general avaition. Anything else is welfare.

    The money generated by commercial airport fees and taxes should be spent on commercial avaition. At least until we have a commercial avaition system that functions properly, primarily the Air Traffic Control System. Which BTW also affects General Aviation. Then the funds should be spent on improving security, meaning hiring more screeners and equipment to speed the security process. Local government should then be responsible for all other airport improvements, both Commercial Airports and General Aviation Airports.

  16. hano13 says:

    The road tax analogy is an excellent one. If you live in Montana or Wyoming the roads that you drive upon are not paid for by tax revenue from your state; the funds are subsidized by states, like California or Texas, that produce more tax revenue than they use.

    Since the FAA is not fully funded by taxes derived from aviation should individuals who do not intend to fly comerically or otherwise be able to withhold their taxes from aviation uses? How about people who are unable to have children or people who don’t drive, or how about people who can see? Should they be able to withhold funding from schools,or road projects or those little beeping boxes at crosswalks? It is a very slippery slope to withhold funding from something that aids the common good but doesn’t benefit you directly.

    Executives and their jets are an easy target for the airlines to use in their quest for larger bonus checks. However, small airports contribute much more to society than the airlines are telling us. Try going to the website for more info.

  17. Chese says:

    I work in the corporate aviation field and the title of this article is very misleading. There are fewer airports now than in the past and even more are getting closed everyday. These facilities are primarily for small general aviation aircraft used for pleasure flying, flying checks, Civilian air patrol etc. The business side does pay its fair share in fuel taxes which right now are the primary funder of the FAA. These airports and planes could one day save your live as well, as just yesterday I carried a box with a human liver off a jet at 2am and gave it to a waiting nurse. Also, the general aviation industry helps keep many people employed like me!

  18. Jiminy Christmas says:

    Based on anecdotal knowledge of my hometown, there is definitely some truth to the article. There has been an ongoing controversy over a $42 million expansion of a small airport that serves mostly private jets. In fact, 75% of the takeoffs and landings at this airport are corporate jets belonging to the likes of 3M, St. Paul Travelers, and UnitedHealthGroup.

    The funding comes from the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which gets almost all of its revenue via fees at the hub airport. So, if you ask me, the general public is entitled to ask why the fees from their travel are being used to make life easier for CEOs at a small airport across town.

    Realistically, if the CEOs paid full freight for their private planes, general passengers wouldn’t see lower fees and reduced ticket prices. However, that money passengers shelled out would go to improve the hub that 99% of us commoners actually use.