MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Northwest Airlines estimates it would lose $150 million a year under a Bush administration proposal to increase security fees on airline tickets, the airline's chief executive said.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, airline passengers began paying a security fee of $2.50 per flight segment and a maximum of $10 on a roundtrip flight. The Bush administration is now proposing raising the segment fee to $5.50 and capping the round-trip fee at $16.
"This is an issue of national defense, and it shouldn't be borne by just one segment of the population," Northwest CEO Doug Steenland told the Star Tribune for a report in its Wednesday editions.
The Transportation Security Administration said airline passengers should cover more security costs.
U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., disagreed, saying that when terrorists used airplanes to crash into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the aircraft were just a means to an end.
"Aviation security is not an airline matter, but a national security matter," he said.
Oberstar, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said an increase would be defensible if it were linked to clear benefits in aviation security. However, he said the Bush administration is not seeking to greatly expand security measures.
Steenland said airlines would be unable to pass the extra costs along to passengers.
"If we can't pass on the increases that we've seen in the price of fuel, why should anyone think we can pass on increases such as this?" Steenland said.
The Air Transport Association, a trade group representing the big airlines, said the administration's proposal would increase the security fees by $1.5 billion a year. The airlines would be responsible for paying those fees whether they collect them from passengers or pay them out of their own budgets.
"Those security issues are the government's burden," Sun Country Airlines President Jay Salmen said. "This is certainly not a time to add extra expenses to the already beleaguered airline industry."
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said the senator also opposes raising security fees. During a Senate hearing Monday, Coleman said the airline industry "is in a very precarious situation, and we shouldn't tax them to death."