Airports, TSA and Airlines: Who are the winners and losers in the federal budget proposal?

At the beginning of every month, I sit down at the table and prepare my budget. I finagle the numbers, putting money here, putting money there, until every penny is designated for something. And given that I have five kids and the dogs, bunnies, goats and horses that came with them, I know a thing or two about an unbalanced budget and what it takes to keep it balanced.

As I write this column, the U.S. House of Representatives is doing its own budget exercise and is prepared to vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Ultimately if the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal passes, airline tickets could get more expensive, but the TSA will continue to guard exit lanes at airports.

There are some positioning this deal as a win-lose situation. The TSA wins, but the airlines lose. Airports win, but still the airlines still lose.

I’m not sure we should view it that way.

The Congressional budget deal changes the fees from $2.50 per leg of a connecting flight capped at $5, to a flat $5.60 fee each way on a trip. The federal government believes this increase will generate an estimated $12.6 billion over the next decade.

Now the airlines are crying foul, saying a hike in fares could discourage travel. This statement seems somewhat ironic given that those same airlines charge bag fees from $25-75, non-refundable ticket change fees up to $150, early bird boarding fees of $40, and seat selection fees at $30. Fees people—myself included—are more than willing to pay (well, I do draw the line at paying to board a plane earlier).

The reality is most of us will open our wallets wider for the convenience of air travel, which gets us from Point A to Point B in a safe and efficient manner. And doubling the TSA fees attached to a round trip ticket won’t keep us on the ground any more than having to pay for an aisle seat.

Though the general public does wind up paying more, there is a price to pay for airport security—something we all want and value, especially since 9/11.

And there are some clear winners in this deal. The TSA wins because the higher fee will offset approximately 43 percent of its security costs and eliminate the aviation infrastructure security fee charged to air carriers. Airports also win because they will no longer be in a mad rush to staff exit lanes as of January 1.

From my own budgeting exercises, I know full well tough choices often come with them—and in most of these cases, no one emerges the winner. But on the surface of this plan, everyone wins something—and better yet, it ends talks of yet another government shutdown.

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