Price of security is rising again

Airlines: Fees for new federal programs to be added to ticket charges.


January 20, 2002|By Boston Globe

Air travelers are probably going to be hit with a one-two punch in the pocketbook later this month when the federal government starts taking over security at the nation's airports.

Airlines currently roll the considerable cost of their private security contractors into the price of their tickets. Even though the security cost is now being transferred to the federal government -- which plans to assess its own fee on tickets to cover the tab -- airlines are not likely to drop their fares.

In effect, air travelers will end up paying twice for the same security costs.

Travelers will start seeing the new security fees later this month. The charge is $2.50 each time they board a plane, up to a maximum of $5 per one-way trip. The money will go to cover the costs of hiring and training 28,000 workers to screen passengers and their baggage, as well as covering the costs of the federal air marshal program and aviation security research.

Spokespeople for Delta and US Airways declined comment on what would happen to their fares after the government takes over security. Further, they declined to say how much they currently spend on security.

But a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said the airline spent $30 million on airport security in 2000. She added that fares would not be going down after the government takes over, partly because airports are increasing security beyond what the government is doing and assessing airlines for the added costs.

At Logan Airport, for example, the Massachusetts Port Authority is considering adding expensive document verification and facial recognition systems that would be paid for by the airlines. The extra security is undoubtedly worthwhile, but airlines have a track record of charges that never go away.

Back in 2000, for example, most airlines imposed fuel surcharges when the price of jet fuel skyrocketed. Even though the price has come back down to earth, the surcharges remain.

In brief

Air vacation bargains

Love Europe? Then you'll love the news that, through March, prices for tours, packages or round-trip flights are the lowest they've been in more than 15 years. Einar Gustavsson of the European Travel Commission explains:

"Traffic is down, and that means airlines and tour operators are competing fiercely. ... Americans can enjoy a long weekend in Europe with hotel and sightseeing for less than $350 from the East Coast."

Here's one example of deep discounts: Virgin Atlantic Vacations has a seven-day, six-night London package, including airfare and hotel, starting at $399 a person. (That, however, doesn't include $99 in airport taxes or surcharges if you travel on a weekend.) Details are on, or call 888-937-8474.

Or how about this? Booking a US Airways Vacation can get you a free air ticket. Buy an air-inclusive vacation to Florida or the Caribbean by Jan. 30 for travel by Feb. 14. The voucher for a free ticket is then applied to the traveler's next domestic vacation package that includes air and hotel and is for at least two people traveling by Oct. 15. For more information, and all conditions and restrictions, visit or call 800-352-8747.

More good deals

Take the train with a friend (or even someone you're not that friendly with) this winter, and one ticket is free. Amtrak's two-for-one promotion, available on select routes throughout the contiguous United States, is available for purchase through Feb. 21; travel must be between Jan. 9 and Feb. 28, and the offer does not apply to Acela Express. Call 800-872-7245 or see a travel agent and mention promotion code H207. Or for this and other specials, visit and click on "savings and promotions."

For those who want to see Great Britain by train, BritRail (877-677-1066; is offering a 25 percent discount for people who buy a BritRail pass and complete their train trips before Feb. 28. You must buy the passes before you leave; they are not sold in Britain.

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