TSA To Airlines: "You Owe Us $219 Million"

The airlines have been under-paying their airport security bill to the tune of $219 million according to the TSA. From the Baltimore Sun:

Southwest owes the most, $54 million, followed by AMR Corp.’s American at $40 million and Delta Air Lines Inc. at $32 million, said Ellen Howe, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman. The carriers will face penalties if they don’t pay or arrange to do so in 30 days, she said.

US Airways Group Inc. owes $18 million; UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, $15 million; Continental Airlines Inc., $14 million; Northwest Airlines Corp., $9 million; and America West Airlines, now part of US Airways, $8 million, Howe said

According to the airlines, the fees are excessive, and they’re refusing to pay them. It all stems from the way the TSA’s budget is calculated. The airlines are responsible for paying fees based on an estimation of what it cost them to run airport security in 2000. The airlines say it cost $300 million, the TSA says the real figure is closer to $750 million.

“We believe it is time for the TSA to develop a new system for allocating these costs, which is based on 2000 market shares,” said Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American, the world’s largest airline. “This old system is fundamentally unfair.”

“We are reviewing our legal options,” said Pete Scales, a United spokesman.

Hey, someone’s got to pay for all those little gray tubs. —MEGHANN MARCO

Airlines get $219 million bill from TSA [Baltimore Sun]
(Photo: Bob Reck)


Edit Your Comment

  1. plim says:

    aren’t we already paying TSA with our 9/11 security fee? all those $5 fees have to add up to something…

  2. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @plim: I was just going to say that. Anywhoo, it looks like our “9/11” fee will now be $12.50. Hopefully they pay their bills with it this time.

  3. tonkyhonk says:

    Thumbs up to the airlines. Hopefully they stick to their guns. The TSA is a farce with a horribly bloated budget.

  4. plim says:

    @tonkyhonk: reminds me of just about any (pseudo)government agency =P

    amtrak anyone?

  5. WindowSeat says:

    Is luggage still being stolen and looted by baggage handlers? Clearly there’s a criminal element still present in our airports so it seems as if the TSA isn’t doing what they’re paid for. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people who steal luggage can also be paid to put things in it. If you catch my drift.

  6. kidnextdoor says:

    Ok – this is slighly off topic…but after Meghann mentioned ‘those little grey tubs’, I’m wondering where I can get my hands on one of those mats they make you stand on when they pat you down. You know, they’re black with the yellow silhouettes of shoes. I often see them unguarded in parts of the security area…but you know…it’s probably not the place to try to commit a petty theft…
    Thanks in advance for any help

  7. robotprom says:

    step one: charge jingoistic security fee to pay for security
    step two: don’t hand the fee over to TSA
    step three: profit!

  8. Invisobel says:

    @kidnextdoor: I would just buy a cheap $10 mat and use some stencils and spray paint and voila!!!

  9. Pelagius says:

    Who do I hate more? TSA or airlines? This is a tough one, but I’ll have to go with TSA since the airlines at least provide some kind of rudimentary service.

  10. protest says:


    totally agree with you, a friend of mine just flew with soutwest and they made her put her digital camera in her checked luggage when she tried to go through security, then when she unpacked her stuff it was gone, and no one will take responsibility. they need to stop hiring such shady people to work these “security” positions. TSA probably got that $750 million figure for the cost of employing competent people, while the airlines cut corners and hire swindlers off street corners to save a buck.

  11. CowPie says:

    I’m a bag handler at what I would say is a mid-size airport. On some heavy traffic mornings, we have to choose between getting the plane out on time or getting most of the bags on the plane because TSA can’t keep up with the bag screening. Bags that are searched should take about ten minutes to reach are bagroom from the ticket counter, sometimes it takes 45-60 minutes. So the airlines get hit with extra costs, work and the ire of the passengers when it’s not always their fault.

    One last thing, blame the airlines for not having enough workers to work flights if there is any kind of delays. Our manning has been reduced by about a third in the last few years.

  12. pjsammy says:

    @Pelagius: agree 100%….but it’s a close one :)

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    Think it’d be some kind of wonderful if all the airlines banded together in a combined PR offensive/withholding of TSA fees, decrying the Security Kabuki aspects of traveling today.

    It does NOTHING to make us safer while forcing us – under penalty of Federal law – to perform like barking seals. The inconvenience, the loathing of air travel that everyone has, the lost monies the airlines are experiencing: make the freaken TSA justify every aspect of their security measures. In front of a jury consisting of Penn Julette, Judge Miliano (TV lady?), and that Snopes guy.

    Oh, and me. So I can throw peanuts at the TSA officials every time they say, “9/11 changed everything. Now give me your shoes and baby milk.”

    Useless jackasses.

  14. ancientsociety says:

    Have to hand it to the airlines. Everytime they get in financial hardship, they ask for a government bailout. But, heaven forbid, that the fees they charge their customers to pay for government-provided “security” actually go to said agency.

    What horse-hockey…”fundamentally unfair”?

    You know, I think the way the IRS calculates my income taxes is “fundamentally unfair”. Does that mean I can refuse to pay them?

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    Oh, and Teller too. He won’t say a word but he’ll make great sardonic facial expressions – and perhaps make 3,000 pounds of bird poop fall on the TSA folks.

  16. kidnextdoor says:

    @Invisobel: I’m all for taking the DIY approach on a lot of things…but in this case, I’m valuing the authenticity of the product as much as anything.
    So I’m moving the discussion over to the forums for any more suggestions…

  17. TehRev says:

    If I was an airline I wouldn’t pay either. I don’t want to contribute to fake security annoying my passengers by stealing their shaving cream.

    TSA = fake security / welfare jobs. waste of money.

  18. romulus says:

    I bet the big airline corporations thought that having a Republican government was going to give them a big break! Loll.

  19. DeeJayQueue says:

    So what if they just stopped paying the tsa all together? would they quit and leave? Good!

  20. Trick says:

    I wish I could pay my bills based on what I paid back in 2000!

  21. r81984 says:

    GREAT, our government gives huge subsidies and tax breaks to OIL and GAS companies that have record profits, but they try to nickle and dime the airlines that operate on shoestring budgets and make very little in profits.

    Maybe the airlines need to find a retired Airline CEO to run as vice president.

  22. danycusmaximus says:

    and the ziploc bag? this thwarts terrorism how? SC Johnson viral marketing anyone?

  23. adamondi says:

    Nothing like a little civil disobedience to rally people to your side.

    I personally agree with the airlines in this. The TSA is ridiculous and useless for security measures. Forcing the airlines and their customers (since all of these charges get passed straight along to us) to pay more for bigger hassles and more useless security is definitely fundamentally unfair.

    They should get into a standoff. The airlines should refuse to pay these fees and the TSA should refuse to provide security screening “services” at airports. We wouldn’t have to pay the extra fee with each ticket, and we wouldn’t have to stand in security lines forever just so that mouth-breathers in polyester can live out their power trip fantasies by making old ladies do random strip searches.

  24. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Hmm, the TSA must be bored…time to remodel their headquarters again, maybe throw another $500,000 party, give out some more $15,000 bonuses…and then there was the $500,000 they spent on artwork.


    I wonder what they’ll do with $215 million? Jewel-encrusted toilet seats for the men’s room? Gold-plated lawn-darts?