What Is an Airport Tax?

Airport Tax Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

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An airport tax is levied on airlines by various authorities for different reasons. You may not realize it, but these taxes are included in the price of your airline ticket. Revenue from these taxes is used in part to maintain the airport and other purposes.

Let's explore how airport taxes work and what exactly you're paying for when you buy your plane ticket.

Definition and Example of an Airport Tax

An airport tax is levied on airlines by a number of different agencies for different reasons. Whether you realize it or not, the price of your airline ticket includes airport taxes. The revenue is used in part to maintain the facility and other purposes.

  • Alternate name: flight taxes

Airport taxes come in a variety of forms that range from government taxes to fuel charges and noise nuisance fees. The federal ticket excise tax, which is charged on all domestic flights, is a common airport tax in the U.S. You’ll pay 7.5% of your fare in U.S. federal excise tax. 

For example, if you buy a ticket from Toledo, Ohio, to Los Angeles for $300, then about $22.50 of that fare was for the federal excise tax. This federal excise tax is collected by the Internal Revenue Service (RS), but there are other taxes collected by other agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

You may not even realize you’re paying these taxes because they’re charged to the airlines; the airlines then pass them on to travelers in the price of their tickets.

You don’t have to add that 7.5% excise tax to the ticket price you’re quoted or see advertised, because it will be included. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that airlines fully disclose the taxes you pay on their websites and on your ticket confirmation.

This federal ticket excise tax was temporarily suspended and given a “holiday” under the terms of the CARES Act from Mar. 28 through Dec. 31 of 2020. The tax break was provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this airport tax came back in effect in 2021.

How an Airport Tax Works

The revenues raised from airport taxes are earmarked for a variety of causes, including homeland security, infrastructure, airway and airport operation and maintenance, and environmental protection.

Airport taxes are not always a flat percentage like the federal ticket excise tax. Some types of airport tax depend on the airports you’re flying in and out of. It typically costs more in airport taxes at a major airport in a large metropolitan hub. The amount of time you spend in the air and how many times you change planes en route can also increase the airport taxes you'll pay.

Other Types of Airport Taxes

There are nearly a dozen types of airport taxes and fees you may face in the U.S., but you’ll encounter some more frequently than others.

Here are a few of the more common types of airport taxes:

The Federal Security Surcharge

The federal security surcharge will add $5.60 to your one-way flight ticket price for both domestic and international flights. It’s also sometimes referred to as the September 11 Security fee or the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) fee.

The federal security surcharge fee can double to $11.20 if you have a layover of more than four hours in the U.S., of more than 12 hours internationally, or if your stop is to or from Hawaii or Alaska.

Overflight Fees

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) charges this fee to airlines even if they don’t land or take off from U.S. soil. It’s imposed for simply flying through U.S.-controlled airspace.

The Passenger Facility Charge (PFC)

The Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) is $4.50. It can be charged up to four times per round-trip ticket, or twice per one-way trip. So the total PFC you will pay can range from $4.50 to $18. It, too, is levied by the FAA. But it’s only applicable at commercial airports that are controlled by public agencies. This charge largely funds FAA safety and security projects.

How Much Are Airport Taxes?

Airport taxes vary depending on a number of factors, but they can collectively represent about 30% of your fare. The primary airport tax is the federal ticket excise tax at 7.5%, which would add $18.75 to a $250 ticket.

Key Takeaways

  • An airport tax is levied on airline carriers in exchange for landing or taking off from U.S. soil.
  • Airlines are liable for paying the tax, but the cost is passed on to passengers because it’s tucked into the cost of airfare.
  • The primary airport tax is the federal ticket excise tax, levied at 7.5% of the cost of all domestic plane tickets.
  • Other air-travel taxes can apply on top of the federal ticket excise tax, such as the Passenger Facility Charge.