Airlines presented with security bill

Published 23 January 2006

Houston-based Continental Airlines and other carriers are reeling from the effect of a move by the federal government to collect hundreds of millions of dollars more in 2005 security fees. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which says it has the blessing of Congress, is seeking the payments. The airlines were contacted earlier this month, when most were still adding up their quarterly and annual losses. Continental, along with most other airlines, is looking at options on how to best oppose the agency’s effort. “We don’t believe that TSA is correct in their assessment,” Continental spokesman Dave Messing said. “We are in discussion with TSA about it, and we’re going to start by asking for a review.” The trade group representing the nation’s airlines is taking a similar stance.

Continental is being asked to pay almost $7 million more for 2005, which is considerably less than many other airlines. Dallas-based Southwest, for example, has been billed $24 million by TSA. Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart said the low-fare leader disagrees with the agency’s calculations. “We are not happy about it, I am here to tell you,” Stewart said. “It just came out of the clear blue sky. Right after the holidays, a $24 million bill shows up on our doorstep.” Continental and many other airlines already are on record as repeatedly complaining about the fees set by the federal government on everything from fuel to passenger facilities.

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