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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2001

Toledo Express to hike ticket tax

Travelers continued to flock to Toledo Express Airport in May despite a strike that has shut down what had been the airport's busiest carrier since late March.

But passengers will start paying more for the privilege of boarding flights in Toledo. On July 1, the airport's Passenger Facility Charge, a tax on tickets that helps pay for airport improvements, will increase from $3 to $4.50.

Passenger boardings at Toledo Express increased by 27.2 percent last month compared with May, 2000, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority statistics show. Business at Northwest Airlink ballooned by 85.8 percent to 5,365 passengers, while the 6,666 passengers who boarded US Airways or US Airways Express flights added up to a 44.3 jump over last year.

AirTran Airways flights to Atlanta carried 6,007 outbound passengers last month, eight months after the service began. Airport officials credit AirTran's discount fares with forcing fare competition at Toledo Express that has stimulated passenger traffic there.

Brian Schwartz, a port authority spokesman, said the increases on Northwest Airlink and US Airways represent passengers diverted to those airlines by the Comair strike. Others have had to switch to Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport to find replacement flights. Before the walkout began March 26, passenger volume at Toledo Express had been up by 50 percent this year. Negotiators on Thursday announced a tentative settlement for the dispute and hope to complete a rank-and-file vote next week.

Even before passenger travel at Toledo Express began booming last fall, port authority officials said they would seek to increase the local tax as soon as possible to help pay for airport improvements.

Congress last year approved raising the maximum Passenger Facility Charge from $3 to $4.50 per ticket. It was up to individual airport operators to obtain federal permission to increase their tax.

Mr. Schwartz said yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration approved the port authority's application April 24, and notice was sent to the airlines three days later that the increase would take effect July 1. The lag time minimized the number of passengers holding tickets for trips affected by the increase. The port authority has used revenue from the tax for such purposes as passenger terminal expansion, parking lot renovations, and noise-control.



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