Long airport lines and flight delays figure prominently among the potential horrors of the so-called sequester. But if such an outcome persuades the flying public of the folly of relying on the general budget to pay for airport-related services, maybe it isn’t so bad. For we’d have better transportation investments — and more reliable federal supervision — if airline passengers paid the full cost of the government services they use.
Currently, passengers are only paying for part of what it takes to keep them safe. About 70 percent of the Federal Aviation Administrations’s revenues in 2012 came from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which is in turn funded by excise taxes that come directly or indirectly out of fliers’ pockets — the 7.5 percent ticket sales tax, the passenger tax of $3.80 per flight segment, and the fuel tax of 4.3 cents per gallon. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration’s proposed $7.6 billion 2013 budget includes $2.5 billion in fees, to be collected from airlines and passengers.