Beaufort County Council’s Finance Committee approved a $4.50-per-ticket fee for departing commercial passengers at Hilton Head.
The committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the recommendation from the county Airports Board in December.
The county expects to collect about $2.7 million over 10 years, according to forecasts based on current passenger counts.
The issue now moves to the full County Council before being sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for final approval.
The passenger fee would be used to repay the county about $1.5 million for construction of the air traffic control tower, widening and bolstering the runway, building and equipping a new airport fire and rescue station, and tree removal.
The rest would be used to cover the county’s share of extending the runway from 4,300 to 5,400 feet and renovating the commercial terminal.
Delta Air Lines, which pulled out of Hilton Head in 2010, did not object to the fee, and US Airways, the island’s lone commercial carrier, did not comment, according to Judy Elder of Talbert & Bright, the county’s airport consultant. Both airlines were given 30 days to respond to the query.
The airport charged a $3 passenger fee from 2000 to 2007, collecting about $1.4 million. The money was used to buy land for the control tower and general-aviation development.
Charleston, Columbia and Myrtle Beach charge a passenger fee.
The new fee would take effect March 1 and expire in 2022, if it receives County Council and FAA support, county airports director Paul Andres has said.
Finance committee chairman and County Councilman Stu Rodman said he expects the passenger fee will pass through County Council “smoothly.”
“We’ve been talking about this on and off for months. Most airports do it, and we’re in the smaller groups that do not,” Rodman said. “It’s a logical vehicle for funding future investment” at the island airport, and “neither airline has objected.”