Budget deal dings airline passengers

The budget deal struck in Washington means airline passengers get stung for an estimated $12.6 billion over the next decade.

Relax. It’s only an extra $3.10 each way per trip.

Compared to what you pay for checked baggage, early boarding or a choice seat, it’s a pittance.

But yes, it adds up.

Congress has long eyed a possible increase in the fee, which raises money to help support the Transportation Security Administration, those people who make you take your shoes off, get rid of anything that holds more than 3.4 ounces of liquid and sometimes search you intimately before letting you on the plane.

The fee will increase from its current $2.50 per flight segment, capped at $5 per trip, to a flat $5.60 each way.

Airlines fought hard against the increase.

The industry lobbying group Airlines for America launched a “Stop Air Tax Now” campaign that included handing out air sickness bags to passengers “because Washington wants you to pay even more.”

The group said the aviation industry has been subject to 17 different taxes and fees that added up to nearly $19 billion in 2012.

“The budget should not be balanced on the backs of the traveling and shipping public,” the Airlines for America website says.

The threat, of course, is that every dollar added to the price of an airline ticket increases the odds that some people will decide not to pay the cost and will not fly.

At least one expert disagrees.

Ronnie Garrett, writing on the industry-specific website aviationpros.com, complains about fees but says don’t believe the gloomy forecast.

The airline industry has come up with its own extra charges in recent years, Garrett pointed out. More are in development, including wider seats for people who are willing to pay.

“The reality is we have shown that we will open our wallets wider for convenient and comfortable air travel, which gets us from Point A to Point B in a safe and efficient manner,” he wrote. “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.”

He’s right.