Expect Airfare To Include Airport Congestion Fees

In a move meant to promote reducing congestion, the DOT yesterday announced that airports can now charge airlines landing fees based on time and overall airplane volume, rather than simply their weight. Critics charge the previous policy allowed airlines to schedule flights on smaller and more regional jets during busy times, when what were needed were fewer and larger jets.The move would allow airports to schedule their flights throughout the day. Most likely the fees will be passed on to consumers, as they should. A good way to increase in a system is to make those who want to use its resources when they’re in short supply pay a premium. Airlines are expected to lobby fiercely against the measure.

Full text of DOT’s airport rate change proposal [DOT]
Feds Change Airport-Landing Fees Policy [AP]
(Photo: Getty)


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  1. SOhp101 says:

    Southwest/JetBlue are looking better with every passing moment.

  2. SOhp101 says:

    That isn’t to say that those two airlines won’t add on those fees as well, but if you’re going to be nickel and dimed to death for domestic flights, might as well start off at a low price.

  3. headon says:

    I can see it now
    50.00 fuel surcharge
    50.00 landing surcharge

  4. econobiker says:

    They need congestion pricing. You will see downtimes or slow times for flights- so why not discount price these times and have prime time flights required to pay a fee.

  5. yendi says:

    Wait a minute — the airlines already charge based on the time of the day (which is why the cheapest flights are the early morning and late-night ones). So they’ve been charging us in the past without having any reason to, and now that they”ve got one they’ll charge more?

  6. TWinter says:

    Spacing planes out a bit more will also lead to longer layovers at hubs, which some will hate and some (like me) will see as a good thing. I personally get nervous whenever I have a short layover, because the first flight is always a little late and then you wind up running franticly through the airport to make it to the second flight, and then you get to your destination and discover that your checked bag wasn’t running as franticly as you were.

  7. FLConsumer says:

    @yendi: Now it’s the airports charging these fees rather than the airlines, or I should say, in addition to the airlines doing so.

  8. csdiego says:

    Sounds good to me. I’ve already quit flying in the evening–just too unreliable–so I might as well get a price break as compensation for having to get up early in the morning.

  9. humphrmi says:

    @FLConsumer: The airports will charge the fees to the airlines, who will likely pass on the fees to customers.

    @yendi: Airlines currently charge based on time of day for other reasons, such as market factors. Now this will be an additional fee based on congestion.

  10. Quellman says:

    I heard about this on the radio this morning. I was infuriated. Nice to see the airlines want to curb that cost. Maybe it’ll keep them competitive.

    For instance on this short trip (200 Miles)- I looked up flights Huntsville (home) to Atlanta (nonstop). Total $338 per person. Driving takes 3.5 hours. I’ll need to fill the tank once there, once back. Should be about $55 total no matter the occupancy by car. I Time saved by flying can be 2.5 total hours including ticketing and flying. So the question remains, is saving 2.5 hours worth $283?

  11. il1lupo1970 says:

    @quellman: yup, it’s worth it.

  12. yahonza says:

    Unbelievable. Obviously, airports should be charging more at times of highest demand. That’s what any business would do. Not doing so leads to shortages (i.e. overcrowded airports). And here the DOT has been standing in the way. What else is the DOT screwing up? It would be nice if government agencies never told anyone how much to produce or what to charge.

  13. Geekybiker says:

    @yahonza: Airlines are already charging more at times of highest demands. This just means there will be an additional airport tax. What this really means is that airlines will pay less fees per passenger if they use larger equipment. So they will be able to charge lower ticket prices if they move to bigger planes with less flights during peak times.

  14. Geekybiker says:

    @Geekybiker: err lower ticket prices relative to the competition that is.

  15. Sudonum says:

    Yeah, it’s the DOT’s fault. They’ve been proposing this for awhile. The airlines and the airports have been fighting it. The DOT finally got tired of the foot dragging and went ahead and did it. Here’s a quote from this [www.nytimes.com] article

    “The airlines and the Port Authority have opposed federal transportation officials’ proposals to limit flights during peak hours on the grounds that doing so would create more delays and harm New York’s economy. According to participants on a committee that advises the Department of Transportation in Washington, the Bush administration has backed away from the idea of charging more for landing and taking off during peak hours and now favors auctioning off landing slots to the highest bidder, which the cash-poor airlines oppose.”

  16. Curiosity says:

    @yahonza: Somehow I always got that it was more profitable in the long run to charge higher prices where costs are higher, unless there are intervening factors like trying to incite growth by lower prices on a leg of a route. I would assume that there are less costs to have more people on a plane and you do not want to discourage them by pricing too high – but at just the right amount. Obviously though this does depend on whether your airline or the general market is the factor causing the demand.

  17. GearheadGeek says:

    @Quellman: for a 3.5 hour drive, it would be close to a wash. After all, you have to go to the airport, park, check in, wait… board plane, fly, land, taxi to gate (at ATL no less), deplane, find either the people you’re meeting or ground transport or a rental car, etc. etc…. I’m guessing that door-to-door you’re looking at a similar amount of total time invested between the drive and the flight.

  18. drrictus says:

    @Quellman: If it takes 3.5 hours to drive, and you estimate you’ll save 2.5 hours driving, then you’re effectively saying you can drive to airport, check in, do security, wait for plane, fly, get bags, and drive to destination (in ATL traffic) in 3.5 – 2.5 = 1.0 hour??? :-O

    I’ll second what gearheadgeek said. But good luck!

  19. GearheadGeek says:

    The way that the airlines will screw up the potential good that COULD come of this is that they’ll charge it as a surcharge applied at ticketing rather than as a factor in the advertised price. So, both the flight arriving at Major Hub International at the peak traffic time and the one at the minimum traffic time will be advertised at $275, but if you book the one that arrives at the peak time (which would be more convenient for you, most likely) you’ll be charged the surcharge (along with the $50 fuel surcharge that wasn’t advertised in the fare.) If the actual cost is advertised up front, then some people will BUY the tickets at the trough times because their arrival time is less important to them than saving a few $. The business travelers who aren’t paying for their own tickets will continue to buy the higher-priced tickets that are more convenient to them because they don’t have any incentive not to.

  20. axiomatic says:

    OK I think I understand what you are saying.

    TSAOverbookingWeatheretc. causes airlines to spend more time on the tarmac and now the airlines are passing the bill to us consumers.

    Got it. Flying with crooks. Message received.

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

    Oh good, another thing that’ll make airline travel more miserable/expensive. That’ll make an excellent companion to the $50 fuel surcharge. But wait, no “takeoff fees?” There’s still an untapped source of revenue here!

    “This is your captain speaking and welcome to United Airlines flight 305. We’re flying at 30,000 feet today…oh, and by the way, we’re not landing this crate until every passenger forks over fifty bucks. Wrap it in the barf bag and leave it by the cockpit door if you ever want to see the ground again.”

    @GearheadGeek: Or it could backfire, and the tickets for any possible convenient times will be so expensive, any of us that can’t fork over the $$$ for the good tickets will be forced into flying out of the airport at 4 AM and getting back home at 1 AM.

  22. goodkitty says:

    Does this mean we’ll have a new “sub-coach” class of seats, where instead of paying the $50 airport use fee they’ll just hand you a parachute and kick you out of the back of the plane?

    And does this mean we’ll see a new wave of Consumerist articles where people complain that their 80 year-old grandmother couldn’t pull the cord and all they got as compensation was a $5 off in-flight meal voucher?

  23. WisconsinDadof2 says:

    One of the primary causes of congestion is the use of smaller planes. The idea of the higher fees, in principle, is to modify the behavior of the small planes – to fly during off peak hours or at less congested facilities. There is a very interesting article about this issue (written in 2001), located here: [www.dlc.org] … to quote from the article

    “Because time-uniform, weight-based landing fees ignore delay costs, they provide little incentive for users to shift flight activity to off-peak hours or less-congested airports, or to substitute fewer flights in larger planes for multiple flights in smaller planes. Predictably, turboprops and regional jets clog prime airports during peak hours, and airlines schedule more frequent flights on smaller planes. Last year, the average size of aircraft that used LaGuardia, New York City’s smallest and most congested airport, was a mere 70 seats.”