Welcome to our country.
Now pay up
This summer, Mexico began collecting $15 from everyone who flies into the country, except those going to towns within 15 miles of the border. The new fee, which is added to the airline ticket price, is added on top of an $18 airport departure tax, boosting the country's take to $33 per visitor.
¡Ay caramba! Then again, Mexico was simply catching up to the rest of the world. Some governments charge a "visa processing" fee; some impose arrival and/or departure taxes (which may be folded into the ticket cost or collected at the airport); some do both.
The United States is no exception. In 1997, the government quadrupled its international air-travel fees, from $6 to $24 (a $12 departure fee and a $12 arrival fee, paid by citizens and foreigners). In addition, the feds tack on a $5 Customs Service user fee, a $6 Immigration and Naturalization Service user fee, and a $2 agriculture inspection fee. Travelers also face airport charges of up to $12 per ticket. And that's not even getting into visa fees.
There's hope: The Seychelles had planned to boost its $40 departure tax to $100, with proceeds to protect the environment. But the government backed off, concerned that the plan might discourage tourism.
Going My Way
Name: Bill Samuels Jr.
Title: President, Maker's Mark bourbon
Home base: Loretto, Kentucky. That's the difficult thing. Not too many airports around. In fact, not too many roads.
How often do you travel? Once a week, for a day or two.
Do you drink on planes? Never. It's a bad idea. Dehydrates you. And as my grandfather used to say, "We make it to sell, not to drink."
Does Maker's Mark even come in little bottles? Sure! We're in first-class on American (and I don't mention that just because my daughter is a flight attendant for the airline).
Do you ever run into her? I haven't yet. She's only been doing it for five months.
Where to next? Well, I'm in New York right now, and tomorrow I go home to Loretto. After that, I don't have the slightest idea. They just tell me. Probably Texas.
What's your favorite destination? Chicago. It's like a sophisticated Eastern city with friendly Midwestern people.
Anything you never forget to pack? Well, I used to get a monthly guide to all the flights, so if your flight was canceled (which happens all the time—it's going to happen tomorrow, and I'm going to be pissed), you knew what your options were. I think the guide shut down. If you go to a counter, by the time you finally reach the front of the line, they only tell you what's happening on their airline.
Actually, T&L has a sister publication called SkyGuide that does exactly what you want. I'll get you the subscription number. I'd love that.
SkyGuide ($69 for 12 issues): 800/678-6738; www.sky-guide.com.
Westin now automatically adds $1 to your hotel bill—unless you request otherwise—to be donated to UNICEF. Good intentions, bad execution: You try explaining the donation on your expense report.
• Somebody please explain: Why do airlines insist on replacing your ticket envelope every time you get to the counter?
• A candidate for mayor of Salt Lake City declared that he would raise hotel and car-rental taxes "shamelessly high" for the Olympics. Shame on you, Jim Bradley!
• Speaking of taxes: Thanks to a cruise ship's dumping of pollutants in Alaskan waters, Juneau is likely to make all cruise passengers docking at the city pay a $5 "head tax."
• What is up with restaurants that won't let you put the tip on your credit card?Aren't they supposed to make life easier for their customers?