Airlines for Am. v. Transp. Sec. Admin, No. 14-1143 (D.C. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
The TSA screens passengers and property moving by passenger aircraft, 49 U.S.C. 44901(a) and is authorized to impose a “uniform fee . . . on passengers . . . in air transportation and intrastate air transportation originating at airports in the United States.” Airlines collect the fees from passengers and remit the funds to TSA. In 2013, Congress reset the fee to “$5.60 per one-way trip in air transportation or intrastate air transportation that originates at an airport in the United States.” TSA implemented the amendment; a “one-way trip” means a continuous trip from one point to another with no stopover exceeding specified limits, so that a trip from New York to Los Angeles to San Francisco and back to New York, with stopovers exceeding four hours would be three one-way trips. Airlines challenged TSA’s rules, arguing that TSA lacked authority to impose fees in excess of $11.20 on roundtrip itineraries that involved multiple “one-way trips.” While the case was pending, Congress amended the statute, mooting that claim. The airlines also claimed that the statute precludes TSA from charging a fee on travel that begins abroad but includes a connecting flight within the U.S. The D.C. Circuit held that the airlines have standing but accepted TSA’s explanation that its construction of ambiguous text better aligns the imposition of the fee with those who benefit from the security services provided.