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Thinking about planning a big trip? Best to book your flights now, before they become more expensive. Starting on July 21, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will more than double – and no longer cap – the mandatory security fee they charge most airline passengers.

Formerly this fee was $2.50 for each leg of a flight, with a $5 cap on each one-way trip or a $10 cap on each round trip. On July 21, however, this fee will be uncapped and raised to $5.60 for each leg of a flight. Domestic layovers longer than four hours and international layovers longer than 12 hours will count as the second leg of a flight, for which you’ll be charged an additional fee. This may seem like an incremental change, but for those domestic travelers with connecting flights and long layovers, this could mean an increase of more than 5% in the price of airfare.

The TSA says it
The TSA says it’s raising this security fee in order to protect flyers (something its present fees barely do).

These mandatory TSA fees are automatically built into ticket prices, so all airline travelers will be affected by them, but a special kind of pain will be endured by three types of travelers: business travelers with round trips that involve multiple destinations, people who aren’t based in major hubs and must take connecting flights, and budget travelers who purchase flights with low fares in exchange for one or more connections. While the security fees on these sorts of trips would previously have been capped at $10, soon each leg of of a multi-stop trip could incur its own separate fee.

The TSA says its present fees barely cover flyer security costs, and that this fee increase could generate an extra $16.9 billion to put toward flyer “security” over the next 10 years. Whether justified or not, these fees are yet another hole in the pockets of airline passengers, and will only add fuel to the fire of complaints about rising fares, narrower and less-padded seats, hassles at the airport, and increasingly ridiculous fees.

Higher TSA fees won
Higher TSA fees won’t translate into shorter lines at the airport for years – if ever (Image courtesy of Shutterstock).

Don’t lose hope, though – there are still a few things you can do to offset the rising cost of flying. Find the best time to book by creating fare alerts on search engines like Airfarewatchdog and Kayak, or by using a when-to-buy-and-fly site like Hopper.com. Whenever possible, book nonstop flights or those with short layovers to avoid the additional TSA fees.

Also, note that Congress may still overturn this increase at the eleventh hour, so take the opportunity to express your displeasure about the new fees. Refer to this list of individual Twitter and Facebook accounts for the nation’s congressional representatives, and let your state rep know that you don’t want to be charged higher, uncapped security fees when you fly.

In case this ruling goes through, be prepared for the worst – and book your next flights before July 21 arrives.

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