Airlines applaud as U.S. spending bill drops travel tax
United Airlines passengers checking in at Kennedy International Airport Jan. 6, 2014 in New York [AFP]

Air travelers will avoid new taxes this year after Congress dropped the plans in its final budget bill, a move the industry cheered Tuesday as a victory for passengers.

Congressional negotiators earned the ire of US airlines last month when they unveiled a deal that would end billions of dollars in crippling automatic spending cuts, but chose to raise air travel fees to help pay for it.

That deal would have jacked up the "9/11 Aviation Security Fee" from $2.50 per flight segment to $5.60, and doubled the fee for a return trip to $10.00, generating some $13 billion over the next decade.

But the measure disappeared in the final bill introduced Monday that appropriates funding for fiscal year 2014 ending September 30.

"We appreciate the leadership (of House and Senate budget appropriators) for recognizing the importance of commercial aviation to the economy and jobs by putting forward a funding bill that will help ensure that air travel can continue unfettered," said Nicholas Calio, president and chief executive of industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A).

"We also thank House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for their support in moving an appropriations bill that does not increase taxes or fees on airlines or our customers."

The massive, $1 trillion omnibus measure is expected to pass both chambers of Congress this week, although Congress could still opt to insert such a fee hike in legislation later in the year.

A4A had mobilized a lobbying effort late last year to oppose the fee hikes, arguing it would be a drag on the massive industry.

Passengers are already paying an average of $61 in taxes and fees on a typical $300 domestic round-trip ticket.

But the Transportation Security Administration tasked with protecting airports nevertheless got hit hard in the new spending omnibus.

Funding to the Department of Homeland Security will shrink by $336 million, with most of those reductions reportedly at TSA.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]