Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Fights to Protect Hawai‘i Travelers from Increased Security Fees

December 11, 2013
Press Release
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) sent a letter to House Budget Committee leaders, Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), yesterday highlighting the unique role of air travel throughout Hawai‘i and the negative impact of a possible air travel fee increase. The congresswoman requested a Hawai‘i exemption for increased air travel fees, particularly the Aviation Passenger Security Fee. The fee was instituted after September 11, 2001 and has now more than doubled from $2.50 to $5.60 in the budget compromise bill announced yesterday.
 
“While I recognize the need to continue supporting TSA’s important mission in securing our air transportation system, I am hopeful that the [budget] conferees will balance this need against the minimal revenue gained and the critical need for air transportation in Hawaii,” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard wrote. “With no interisland railway or highway system, our residents have no choice but to fly between most of the islands… Thus, air transportation is an essential lifeline for conducting business, receiving healthcare, and visiting family and friends.”
 
 
 
Full text of the letter is below:
 
December 10, 2013
 
Dear Chairman Ryan and Ranking Member Van Hollen,
 
As you work toward a budget agreement, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the unique role of air transportation in the State of Hawaii.  I respectfully request your consideration of an exemption for interisland flights from any increase in air travel fees.  Such an increase would have a negligible budget impact for the nation, but would create undue hardship for Hawaii residents who have extremely limited transportation options.
 
It is my understanding that the budget conference committee is considering an increase to the Aviation Passenger Security fee.  Although it is unclear how the fee increase would be structured, I am aware that the Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 included a doubling of this fee.  With less than 6.8 million intrastate, interisland travelers in 2012, this fee increase would generate less than $17 million within the State of Hawaii out of a projected $317 million nationwide.  This is less than 0.2% of the projected revenue gain from the increase.
 
Yet, the growth of the fee would have a devastating impact upon the residents who work and live on one of the six main islands in Hawaii.  With no interisland railway, highway system, or ferry, our residents have no other choice but to fly between most of the islands.  Oahu, which has 70% of the state’s population and is the base of Hawaii's economy, is not accessible from any other island except by air.  The rough channel waters and long distances between the major islands have prohibited a successful ferry system from taking root. Thus, air transportation is an essential lifeline for conducting business, receiving healthcare, and visiting family and friends.
 
Moreover, our interisland fares are priced so that a doubling of the security fee would have a noticeable effect on the price of the overall ticket.  As an example, the Honolulu-Kona segment offers fares as low as $67.42.  There are already $11.68 in fees and taxes tacked on to that fare.  Adding another $2.50 to the security fee would result in fees and taxes escalating the price of the ticket by 22%.
 
 
 
In the past, Congress has recognized Hawaii’s unique reliance on air travel and the disparate impact of increased taxes and fees on our state.  For example, Section 40117(e)(2)(D) of Title 49 of the United States Code exempts flights between two or more points in Hawaii from the imposition of passenger facility fees.  Also, in section 4261(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code, Congress fixed the air transportation tax on domestic flights departing from Hawaii at $6, or half of the $12 tax imposed on flights in the contiguous 48 states.  Further, both Congress and the Administration have agreed that Hawaii airports should be exempt from limitations on essential air service airports.
 
While I recognize the need to continue supporting TSA’s important mission in securing our air transportation system, I am hopeful that the conferees will balance this need against the minimal revenue gained and the critical need for air transportation in Hawaii.  If you have any questions, or if I may be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Wendy Clerinx, my Legislative Director, at 226-1107.
 
Sincerely,
 
Tulsi Gabbard
 
Member of Congress

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