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What GAO Found

GAO identified three basic alternative methods to the current airline ticket-based method for PFC collections. These methods are not mutually exclusive and could be used by either individual airports or a group or airports:

1. Kiosk or counter: passengers would pay the PFC at the airport using a self-service kiosk or payment counter.

2. Internet or online payment: passengers would pay the PFC online through an airport or third-party Web site during or after the airline ticket purchase.

3. Emerging technologies: passengers would pay the PFC using their smartphone, pre- paid card, near field communication (NFC)-enabled device, or other technology.

GAO evaluated these alternative methods relative to the current ticket-based collection method using factors that we identified as key considerations for evaluating alternative passenger fee collection methods--passenger experience, customer transparency, administrative costs, technology readiness, and legal issues. Based on GAO's evaluation of the alternatives, each faces considerable challenges to implement, and none of the three alternative methods that we identified are currently better than the existing collection method. Compared to the current on-ticket PFC collection method, all alternatives would diminish the passenger experience by adding another step in the payment or check-in process; reduce customer transparency; and entail higher administrative costs. At this time, all of the aviation stakeholders that we spoke to, including representatives from selected U.S. airports and airlines, support the current collection method over any alternative due, in part, to passenger ease and low administrative costs. In the future, however, it is possible that some of these challenges will be reduced as technology advances or that airports might be willing to accept the additional costs and impose additional passenger burdens in return for an increase in their capital funding.

Why GAO Did This Study

This report formally transmits the briefing held with Congressional offices on January 15th and 16th, 2013, in response to the mandate under Section 112 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FAA reauthorization act). This section directed the Comptroller General to conduct a study of alternative means of collecting airport passenger facility charges (PFCs) that would allow such charges to be excluded from the ticket price, and in conducting this study, to consider: (1) collection options for arriving, connecting, and departing passengers at airports; (2) cost sharing or allocation methods based on passenger travel to address connecting traffic; and (3) examples of airport charges collected by domestic and international airports that are not included in ticket prices. In fulfilling this mandate, our objective was to identify existing and potential methods for collecting and allocating airport passenger facility charges, including from connecting passengers.

For more information, contact Gerald L. Dillingham at (202) 512-2834 or

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