DOT Transparent Airfare Pricing

Airline Tickets: Taxes and Fees

The US Department of Transportation passed a rule requiring transparent pricing of airline tickets – this includes transparency of all taxes and fees, providing consumers the true price of an airline ticket when shopping around.

Delta Air Lines, for example, adheres to this by listing the “from” (or starting at) price – but just beneath is the total price (see pictured), including taxes and fees.  No surprises as you make your way through the booking process and see the price jump by $40 per ticket or $400 (or more) in the case of an international ticket.

When comparing some fares, you may see small fare differences – these typically are the result of varying Passenger Facility Surcharges at different hub airports when your airfare includes a connection.


Of the so called “taxes and fees”, primarily with international tickets, there’s a “tax/fee” the average consumer may not be aware of – this sneaky little fee is typically labeled YQ.  This is not a government tax or fee as many may believe, but it is the fuel surcharge associated with an airline ticket and is really part of the airfare, or revenue the airline earns with each booking.

As an example, we pulled up an airfare from Louisville to Barcelona.  The base fare at $251 sounds absolutely fantastic, but the actual fare, round-trip, is $801.70.  Thankfully the DOT now requires disclosure of this.  Looking at the fare break-down, instead using the YQ label, they list an “International Surcharge” of $476.00 — this surcharge is not a government tax, but is a fuel surcharge.

Transparent Delta Ticketing
Transparent Delta Ticketing


Spirit Airlines Upset with Transparent Pricing


Spirit Airlines, an ultra low cost carrier, is against the US Department of Transportation’s requirement for Transparent Pricing – in fact, they believe the new rules will have the opposite effect by being mandated to HIDE the government taxes and fees in fares.

After having a look at Spirit’s website, with the new rules in effect, they appear to be forward when it comes to fare + taxes and fuel surcharges; we didn’t see anything hidden when it came to booking a ticket without extras.  This begs the question, why is Spirit so hostile with airfare transparency?

Taxes and Fees, including fuel surcharges should always be transparent, and not last minute gotcha’s.

Spirit’s justification against against this is rooted in the fear of policymakers quietly increasing taxes on air travel — with hopes the consumers will not see what they’re doing.

The only “hidden” fees among carriers as of late have been fuel surcharges, which are set by the carriers.  If and when taxes and fees are increased, it will affect all carriers and it will not happen quietly in our opinion.

Update:  After a re-review of Sprit’s website today, it now appears they are clearly listing their optional fees and costs.  The cost of an item from the “ala-carte” menu depends whether you pay in advance or at the airport.  A selection of their fees include:

  • Carry-on Bag: Starting at $30 booked online; $40 at airport
  • First Checked Bag: Starting at $28 Domestic – $33 International
  • Bags Checked at Gate: $45
  • Advance Seating: $1.00 to $50.00 per seat
  • Standby Fee: $25


The above are just a few of the ala-carte, or optional fees for travel on Spirit.  If you must obtain a boarding pass from an agent at the airport, there is an additional $5.00 fee per boarding pass printed, and starting June 30, 2012, Spirit will charge $2.00 for each boarding pass printed at a Kiosk.

When looking at the prices for checked luggage, it is not completely clear what the baggage allowance is in weight.  However, a review of the optional fees indicates an overweight baggage fee starting at 41 lbs for $25.

US Airline Tax Breakdown and Descriptions

The following is a general breakdown of taxes and fees applicable to airline tickets.

Name & Description May Apply To: Code Amount
U.S. Excise Tax

7.5% of fare; applies to flights within the continental United States or Canada/Mexico 225-mile buffer zones
U.S. Domestic and International US 7.5%
Travel Facilities Tax – Alaska & Hawaii

Applies to certain flight segments to or from Alaska or Hawaii
U.S. Domestic and Intl to/from AK/HI US $8.20
U.S. Federal Segment Fee
Per-segment inflation-adjusted fee applicable to flights within the continental United States
U.S. Domestic and International ZP $3.80
Passenger Facility Charge (PFC)
A maximum of 4 charges per itinerary applies to PFC-approved airports for facilities improvement
U.S. Domestic and International XF up to $4.50
September 11th Security Fee – US Security Fee

U.S. government-assessed fee of $2.50 per U.S. enplanement per ticketed journey for security costs not to exceed $5.00 one-way or $10.00 round-trip (fees accrue incrementally with multi-segment travel itineraries)
U.S. Domestic and International AY $2.50 per U.S. enplanement
U.S. International Transportation (Arrival/Departure) Tax
Applies to all flights arriving in or departing from the United States, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
International US $16.80
U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Fee
Applies to all flights originating abroad and landing in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
International XA $5.00
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Fee
Applies to international arrivals to the United States, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
International XY $7.00
International Taxes and Fees
Various foreign taxes, inspection fees, and security charges typically excluding airport departure taxes
International Varies Varies
International Surcharges
Carrier-imposed surcharges pursuant to applicable international tariff filings – Typically a Fuel Surcharge
International YQ/YR Varies


Travel Informed and know what it is you’re being charged for next time you purchase an airline ticket.   As to Spirit’s campaign to reverse what we consider transparency – whether it’s hidden or transparent, we’ll leave that call up to you, but with the trouble they’re going through to protest this, one really has to question their agenda.

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