Sorrentino: we're trapped in the homeland

Some of us recall how President Bush asked us to be consumers after 9/11. As she writes in the Phoenix, Mary Ann Sorrentino tried to take him up on it, with frustrating results:

After 9/11, many of us went to New York City, responding to then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s plea to help Gotham by visiting and spending money. We toured Ground Zero, visited museums, ate at restaurants, and joined Manhattan’s determination to not let “terrorism” lock us in our homes.
National leaders also entreated the public to support the stricken airline industry by traveling. If we stayed home, terrified, the enemy won, or so the reasoning went. Afflicted by wanderlust, I took this seriously and traveled as much as my schedule and purse allowed.
So when a “last-minute deal” appears in my e-mail, we pay attention. Recently, British Airways offered great flights from Boston to London, plus two free hotel nights.
Dreaming ensued of a London escape. Sure enough, one could book roundtrip airfare for $225. The kick in the teeth, however, was how taxes and homeland security fees, plus airport charges, added an additional $347.99 to that ticket. The total cost became $572.99, more than 150 percent greater than the basic airfare!
Passengers start with this $347.99 charge since the airport taxes and so-called “security” fees are flat, and not based on a percentage of airfare. Travelocity lists such taxes/fees as:
• Airport Passenger Facility Charges — $2-$18, depending on itinerary;
• Federal Segment Fees — $3 per segment (defined as a takeoff and a landing);
• September 11 Security Fee of $2.50 per flight segment (maximum charge per trip of $5 one-way, $10 round-trip);
• Travel Facilities Tax of up to $13.40 per roundtrip for domestic flights beginning or ending in Alaska or Hawaii;
• For fares to Canada, a federal immigration fee of $7 per roundtrip, airport fees of $6.50 per roundtrip, and Canada Air Traveler Security charge of $8 per roundtrip;
• For international itineraries, foreign and US government-imposed charges of up to $200 USD per round trip, depending on routing and destination.
Add to these realities how the plummeting dollar is now worth less than 60 percent of a Euro and only half a British Pound, not to mention the global unpopularity of America and Americans, and how the “terror” that keeps us trapped has less to do with jihadis than with our own misguided bureaucracy and policies.
Domestic air tickets on so-called low-cost carriers also add significant “taxes and fees.” With gas prices skyrocketing (and gas companies enjoying record profits in recent years), airfares will only rise, so driving to our destination — when that is geographically possible — is also getting unaffordable for many.
As for the use to which all this money is being put, most US airports are more crowded, less comfortable, dirtier, less efficient, and no more secure than they were on 9/10.
We regularly hear about someone smuggling a weapon on board, wandering onto the tarmac, and other problems. Taxes and fees that cost 150 percent more than the ticket itself won’t fix that.
Like the old Animals’ song says, “We Gotta Get Outta this Place.” We just can’t afford to do so.

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