A Roundtrip Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

At least according to the TSA since Congress hasn’t defined the meaning of roundtrip, no such meaning exists and therefore it can mean whatever they say.

TSA Administrator John Pistole responded to Leocha and the airlines in a letter that the fee will affect all travelers equally for one-way trips and that nothing in the law passed by Congress defined a round trip.

Here’s why it matters.

Back in December Congress agreed to raise taxes on travel, as part of their overall budget deal. They’ve removed the illusion that TSA “9/11 security fees” go to fund security theatre.

The budget deal increased ‘security’ ticket taxes that now go to the federal government’s general revenues, from $2.50 per segment (up to $5 each way) to $5.60 each way regardless of non-stop or connecting.

As a result, a non-stop roundtrip goes from $5 to $11.20 (124% increase), while a connecting roundtrip goes from $10 to $11.20 (12% increase). Because aviation, already taxed like cigarettes and alcohol, isn’t taxed heavily enough.

But here’s the rub. In order to generate even more revenue, the TSA is publishing a proposed rule to re-define “roundtrip” in order to increase ticket taxes even further.

  • The TSA is proposing that the $5.60 fee will apply to each leg when a domestic connection is greater than 4 hours, or an international stopover is more than 12 hours.
  • They also propose that the $5.60 each way would apply doubly when connecting between the U.S. mainland and Alaska and Hawaii.

Instead of capping taxes at $10 per ticket, how expensive could this get?

The TSA cited an example that could yield $28 in fees, if a traveler flew from Newark to Chicago to Denver to Las Vegas to Chicago to Newark, with four-hour connections between each city.

Even the authors of the budget deal, who were looking to shoulder passengers with over $16 billion in additional fees over 10 years, are.. like… whaaaaa?

But the chairs of the Senate and House budget committees, who agreed to the deal to raise the fee, said they didn’t intend to raise the cap beyond $5.60 each way.

Aviation Newspeak. A roundtrip is no longer a one-way from A to B, returning from B to A. Especially if B is Alaska or Hawaii.

As they say, a few bad apples who in no way undermine the hard work that thousands of men and women at the TSA do to keep us safe, day in and day out.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve written my senators and representative and suggest everyone do the same. Take to social media and get a big groundswell of action here. Initially everyone was looking for revenue they didn’t have to call a ‘tax’, but this went farther than both sides of the isle intended. I think the airlines would have a rough time implementing this from an IT point of view.

  2. where’s the source for “applying doubly for flights to AK/HI?” I didn’t see that in the USA today article.

    Are you saying that one way betweeen HI and the US mainland security fee will be $11.20 according to the rules, say HNL-SFO non-stop?

    What I read in the USA today article is that the 12-hour rule would apply for connections to HI/AK.

    Please clarify.

  3. After reading the proposed rules in detail, there’s no “doubling” of the new fee proposed for non-continental segments.

    For “non-continental segments” (within or to/from HI, AK and US possessions) a stopover is defined as greater than 12 hours. It’s 4 hours for “continental” segments (within the lower 48 + D.C.)


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