Congress Screws Up, Airlines Screw You

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Consumers booking a flight today may save a few bucks on the ticket, thanks to a temporary tax holiday.

Congress failed to approve a measure reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s operations before the agency’s deadline of midnight on Friday. As a result, the FAA has been forced to lay off 4,000 employees and halt many of its duties, including construction projects and collecting taxes, until Congress votes to extend its authorization.

While this development has cost many their jobs – and will cost the government roughly $200 million each week in lost tax revenues – travelers stand to save some money on flights if they know where to look.

Passengers could save as much as $30 on a $240 flight from forfeited taxes, according to FareCompare, a travel website, as airlines temporarily do not need to fork over taxes to the FAA for cargo, gasoline, takeoffs and landings, among other charges.

Unfortunately, many of the major airlines have decided to raise their fares in the interim to boost profits rather than keep fares lower for the consumer. The Associated Press reports that Delta, Southwest, United and JetBlue, among others, each raised their prices by about 7.5%, nearly matching the amount cut out by taxes. Effectively, these airlines seem to be operating on the assumption that the consumer is willing to pay the higher amount anyway, so why not pocket the extra money?

Several carriers including Virgin America, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, though, have opted to pass along the full tax savings to the consumer. Virgin in particular was offering flights for as much as $24 cheaper than comparable offers on United or American.

So if you’re looking to book a trip for the second half of summer, consider this a temporary fare sale. Get it quick before Congress acts.