Hey! When I left Ireland last week, I had to pay a €10 "Development Fee" on departure. I thought this was crazy but after some research I found it's not uncommon in small regional airports in the UK, too, to supplement the investments of the airport and maintain the running of it etc. I believe it's a pretty recent thing after governments may have started to struggle to keep their ends of promised investments. Is this a thing in the US too? Should it be?
This is a really interesting question. The answer is yeah, we kind of have something like that here.
Airline fees are the new airline meals in that they’re the go to joke when it comes to trying to rag on the aviation industry. If Seinfeld was still on the air, I’m almost positive that there would be a show opening with Jerry saying, “What is the DEAL with airline fees?” Seriously though, it seems like you can’t do anything when you’re flying without paying for it. And while it’s true that baggage fees are the most prominent and visible fees you’ll find in the US, that’s only because the rest of them are generally factored into your ticket and don’t require payment on the spot.
The three big airline fees in the US are Federal, Security, and PFCs.
- Federal is essentially the landing fee. Basically every major airport (and many smaller ones) charge a fee for every aircraft that lands. It’s basically just a tax of sorts that varies in cost depending on the airport and goes to the general upkeep of the infrastructure. That fee can be assessed in a number of ways. If you fly your personal aircraft in there, the fixed based operator (FBO) will tack it on to your fuel or parking cost. If you’re a commercial airliner, they charge the company. That charge is passed along to the customer (aren’t they all?)
- Security. This is the secret one. Imposed after 9/11 I can’t tell you exactly what it funds. Not because I’d have to kill you but because I honestly don’t know. I assume it funds some of the TSA’s salary and pays for fixing the metal detector when it breaks, etc.
- PFCs: Otherwise known as Passenger Facility Charges. I honestly don’t know if it varies based on the size of airport you’re traveling to or from, but from what I understand this is the fee that pays for rent on the terminal as well as any other local costs required for the airline to set up shop.
So I might say the UK’s “Development Fee” is a combination of our Federal and PFC. Truth be told, this is my very limited understanding of airline fees. The financial side of the business is one I just can’t even begin to grasp. As long as my paycheck direct deposits, that’s the full extent of my concern. All of the charges and fees are set by people in suits in board rooms far away from me and outside my control. I just fly whatever they put at my gate, but this is, I hope, an adequate answer to your question.