President Donald Trump’s budget proposal has drawn fresh criticism from travel industry organizations over a plan to cut funding for airport security programs while raising passenger security fees on airline tickets.
According to USA Today, the proposal calls for raising ticket fees from $5.60 to $6.60 for each connecting flight, generating about $530 million in additional revenue. Not all of the ticket fee revenue goes to airport security, however, as Congress had previously diverted a portion of the ticket fee to pay for deficit reduction.
At the same time, the budget would result in 1,794 fewer Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers in airport exit lanes, as well as reduce the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, which patrol airport public areas, from 31 to eight, according to the USA Today report. The budget also eliminates a grant program to reimburse state and local police for security.
The proposal has drawn criticism from airport and airline industry organizations.
“The 2018 federal budget’s proposal to save money by ending TSA staffing for exit lanes at airport security checkpoints, as well as reducing funds for a program that supports hiring local law enforcement officers at airports, is short sighted and will weaken our nation’s efforts to prevent future threats,” the Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy organization for New York area airports, said in a written release. “With the continuing threat of terror attacks at high profile, heavily trafficked locations around the world, we can ill afford to cut security at major U.S. airports that face the biggest threat, including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.”
Airline trade organization Airlines for America (A4A) criticized the ticket fee hike in its own statement.
“There is no justification for asking airline customers to pay more, particularly while our government is diverting billions of dollars in security fees away from TSA checkpoints,” said A4A. “Rather than saddling passengers with higher taxes, Congress’s first priority should be to return the billions of dollars passengers have already paid back to where it belongs: paying for aviation security. Tax increases are not the answer, and will only serve to drive up the cost of flying for millions of Americans who rely on air travel, cost jobs, limit service options to small and medium communities and ultimately harm the U.S economy.”
According to The Hill, a Senate panel has also raised concerns regarding the proposal. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said that the proposal “fails to take into consideration many practical realities.”
"I am concerned about what is missing in this budget when it comes to other priorities, like aviation security," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the panel’s ranking member, according to The Hill. "The threat to aviation is very high — we’ve had classified briefings on this, in fact — but we also see budget cuts to several TSA security programs."
The proposal comes the same week that police arrested a man for walking into LaGuardia’s Terminal B through an exit lane, CBS New York reports. The man walked by a TSA guard who was on duty at the time, and is now facing disciplinary action.
In a statement issued earlier this week, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said that “unilaterally disarming the marketing of the U.S. as a travel destination would be to surrender market share at the worst possible time. It's especially perplexing that the elimination of Brand USA is on the table when both Commerce Secretary Ross and OMB Director Mulvaney each have supported it previously.”
The budget was delivered on Tuesday. Looking ahead, Congress could spend months debating the proposals.