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Breaking down the fees and taxes in a plane ticket

TSA

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen passengers at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. 

The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the fees it assesses travelers to $5.60 per leg of your flight.

What's that mean? If a layover is more than four hours, then the TSA considers that to be two trips and assesses the fee again.  So, that could mean about $22 extra on your layover flight. That made us wonder what are we paying for air travel these days.... besides the actual airfare, that is.

Let’s say you’ve got a $500 round trip ticket from New York City to Los Angeles with a long layover in each direction, here's what you'll be paying.

(Numbers courtesy of Airlines for America.)

Fare: $500

TSA 9/11 Fee: $5.6 per segment x 4 = $22.40 

Federal Aviation Excise Tax: 7.5% = $37.50

Flight Segment Tax: $4 per segment x 4 = $16.00

Airport passenger facilty charge: $4.50 per segment x 4 = $18.00

Effective Tax Rate: 18%.  This can vary depending on how many layovers and how expensive your fare is.  If this example fare were for a direct flight, for example, it would be taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent. 

Flying international? International flights have a whole additional set of fees depending on the country and the airport, and these fees can range into the hundreds of dollars. 

And let us not forget the fees for some kind of basic rudimentary comfort, says airline analyst Robert Mann, Jr:

Want to pick your own seat? $0 to $25

What about a seat with legroom? $25 up to hundreds of dollars

Check a bag? $0 to $80

Oh, you want to carry on that bag? $0 to $100

Hungry?  How does $5 for a snack and $15 for a sandwich sound?

The TSA has said historically, it spends significantly more money on aviation safety than it receives from airlines or passengers.  However, the revenues raised from government fees and excise taxes do not directly go to their supposed purpose, says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchDog.com.

“A lot of the money actually ends up in the general fund to reduce the deficit and never sees its way as was intended to improve air travel.”

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.

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