Travel Notes: Federal security fee hike to increase overall air fares

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Get ready to pay more when you fly.

The so-called Sept. 11 security fee that was intended to fund the Transportation Security Administration is about to increase. The TSA, however, says it won’t necessarily benefit from the extra revenue.

The fee hike could increase the cost of air travel by as little as 60 cents or as much as $22.40 or more, depending on the number of layovers and length of the stops.

TSA critics and the airlines are fuming about the hike.

“Why the increase?” wrote traveler Jon Berggren in a comment filed with the TSA. “When I go to the airport, I see two out of eight lanes open and 20 TSA agents walking around in circles and the line is out of the terminal. Where is all this money going?”

The increase, starting Monday,, raises the security fee from $2.50 per leg with a $5 cap, to a flat fee of $5.60 per one-way trip with no cap. The cost of a round trip from Los Angeles to Orlando, Fla., with no layovers would increase from $5 in TSA fees to $11.20.

If the flight has long layovers, travelers will pay more.

Passengers will be charged a $5.60 fee for each leg of a trip if there is a layover longer than four hours, based on changes adopted by the TSA. In other words, a round trip from Los Angeles to Orlando, Fla., with stops of four hours or more in each direction, would incur fees of $5.60 for each leg, for a total of $22.40.

TSA officials say the agency is not getting a hike in revenue because Congress has directed the new fees to go to the U.S. Treasury to help reduce the government deficit. What’s more, Congress eliminated a separate security fee that generated $420 million a year for the TSA.

Airline officials say the fee hike is just another way the federal government is tapping an already highly taxed industry.

“Our government must stop using airlines and their passengers as its own personal ATM whenever it needs more money,” said Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s carriers.

A bike seat for planes?

How far will the airline industry go to squeeze in more passengers per plane?

The question arises after France-based Airbus Operations submitted a patent in Europe for a new passenger seat that resembles a bicycle seat with a small backrest. It has no tray table, no headrest and very little legroom.

As explained in the patent application, the invention is meant to reduce the bulk of a typical airline seat, thus allowing an airline to pack more passengers onto a plane and, presumably, increase profits.

“In effect, to increase the number of cabin seats, the space allotted to each passenger must be reduced,” the patent application states.

Each seat is fastened to a vertical bar, and the seats retract to increase space when not in use.

Airbus officials say the patent request does not mean the seat will be used.

“Many, if not most, of these concepts will never be developed, but in case the future of commercial aviation makes one of our patents relevant, our work is protected,” said Airbus spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn. “Right now these patent filings are simply conceptual.”

Alaska carry-on space

While many airline seats are getting smaller, some fliers will soon get more overhead bin space.

Alaska Airlines expects to be the first airline to take delivery next year of Boeing’s Next-Generation 737 and 737 MAX planes equipped with overhead bins that can carry nearly 50 percent more luggage than standard bins.

The new bins, which hang a few inches lower than traditional bins, can hold up to 174 standard carry-on bags. Bins now on Alaska planes hold up to 117 bags.

“The additional storage space will allow our customers to keep their personal items with them in the cabin, which we think they will enjoy,” said Mark Eliasen, Alaska’s vice president of finance.

But bigger bins may also benefit Alaska by cutting the time it takes to load passengers and their carry-on bags. Every minute cut on boarding can save $30 per flight, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Transport Management.

United States - North America - United States government - Florida - Orlando - Transportation Security Administration

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