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FAA shutdown portends protracted fight in Congress
Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, who blocked a Democratic effort Friday to extend FAA’s operating authority without cutting subsidies, told reporters he doesn’t expect to change his position “until they quit playing around with labor law.”
Also Tuesday, Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees FAA’s budget, and Maria Cantwell of Washington, who chairs the aviation subcommittee, sent a letter to airline industry officials complaining that airlines have raised fares during the tax holiday created by the FAA shutdown.
Airlines’ authority to collect ticket taxes expired at midnight Friday along with FAA’s operating authority. By Saturday night, nearly all the major U.S. airlines had raised fares to offset taxes that expired the night before, including American, United, Continental, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue.
Among the few airlines that didn’t raise fares were Virgin America, Frontier and Alaska. The expiring taxes can total $25 or more on a typical $300 round-trip ticket.
“Consumers pay these taxes and fees to support the aviation system and it is patently unfair for the industry to charge them to travelers and not have them see any benefit,” the senators wrote.
They urged airlines to either put their profits into an account to be used to support federal aviation programs or roll back the fare increases.
Industry officials were unrepentant.
“Customers are not impacted and are paying the same ticket prices they were last week,” Air Transport Association spokeswoman Jean Medina said.
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