ATL airport seeks to extend passenger fee as FAA looks to revise program

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s airport managers propose to extend a passenger fee that is due to expire in 2027. The action occurs as the Federal Aviation Authority is accepting comments on proposed changes to the allowed uses of the fee.

ATL airport hartsfield jackson

Atlanta’s airport is seeking to extend a passenger fee to raise money to maintain and improve Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Credit: mytattoospro.com

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is accepting public comment on its proposed fee extension through Sept. 20. The deadline for public comment on the proposed revision in the fee program is Sept. 30.

These fees are a significant source of income at the world’s busiest passenger airport – a projected $6.1 billion in the five-year period ending June 30, 2021, according to Atlanta’s budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The fees are to rise from a projected $923 million this fiscal year to the following: $1.1 billion (FY2018); $1.2 billion (FY 2019); $1.4 billion (2020); and $1.6 billion (2021), according to the city’s FY 2017 budget.

The fees, called passenger facility charges, are collected through a program established by Congress in 1990 to help airports pay for various projects. The legislation was last amended in 2001.

The FAA now allows airports to charge up to charge a fee of up to $4.50 for what, in aviation jargo, is an enplaned passenger. The rate is not to change.

An enplaned passenger on a round trip could be charged four PFCs, or passenger facility charges. The first could be charged by the departure airport, and the second by the arrival airport. On the return flight home, the passenger could be charged the PFC by the departing airport and by the flyer’s home airport.

ATL airport dog park

Atlanta’s airport intends to establish bathrooms for service animals on each terminal. Three existing facilities are distant from terminals, including the main park with its statue Credit: dogjaunt.com

The FAA is proposing a revision it portrays as sweeping and will affect the way airports and carriers relate to the FAA regarding the fees.

An FAA paper outlines 13 proposed changes to existing policies that its characterizes are notable. One of them establishes criteria for ground access and intermodal projects. Another contains specific criteria for, “eligibility, objective, justification, and significant contribution by project type.

According to an FAA filing by the FAA in the Aug. 5 Federal Register:

  • “This update is a fundamental rewrite of FAA Order 5500.1, the current version of the PFC Order. The update clarifies the different responsibilities of the FAA Office of Airports staff and those of public agencies applying to collect and use PFCs. The update also clarifies the responsibilities of air carriers collecting, handling, and remitting PFCs to public agencies. This updated version of the Order includes the requirements for all PFC funded projects and can be used as a ready-reference for project-specific requirements.”

Atlanta’s airport officials posted notice of their plans to extend the PFC on the airport’s webpage on Aug. 19.

The airport announced Aug. 19 that it expects to begin collecting the new fee on March 1, 2017. That’s when the existing fee is to be fully collected in the amount of $237 million.

The airport outlined a project list priced at about $238 million. The city expects to request future extensions of the PFC to cover the cost.

Projects range from $80 million for an intrusion system at the fence around the airport; to $40.1 million to maintain airfield shoulders; to $3.9 million bathrooms for service animals on each terminal.

The airport now has three dog parks and none are near the terminals.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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