by Mark Baker
AOPA President & CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018
AOPA has been hard at work collecting feedback from members regarding their experiences with fees and pricing at FBOs across the country.
Working to ensure the affordability of flying is one of AOPA’s core missions, and we believe that reasonable airport access is crucial to protecting general aviation. While most FBOs are doing a great job, a handful are imposing unreasonable fees and engaging in pricing practices that restrict access. When airports accept federal funding through the Airport Improvement Program, they also agree to comply with certain grant obligations. Some of those obligations include requiring that lease-holding FBOs charge reasonable and nondiscriminatory pricing for each aeronautical service rendered. This requirement is necessary to protect that airport for public use.
At the request of airport sponsors seeking to make their facilities more welcoming to general aviation pilots, AOPA in recent months developed guidelines that will ensure pricing transparency, competitiveness, and reasonable fees at FBOs; filed three FAR Part 13 complaints to the FAA to address the most egregious airports we’ve found; and shed more light on the issue through our reporting.
We’ve seen significant progress at a number of airports already. But throughout this effort, it also became clear that there’s an enormous lack of transparency at certain FBOs.
In the digital age of technology and apps, we can access the cost of goods and services with a few keystrokes on our phone. So why doesn’t this exist for general aviation?
AOPA took this lack of transparency as an opportunity to raise the bar and expand the information provided to pilots through our updated online Airport Directory (www.aopa.org/airports), which will be released in the coming months.
The FAA has also recently weighed in on the debate when it issued official guidance further supporting our initiative for more transparent and reasonable fees. The agency reminded airport sponsors that receive federal funds that they “have a responsibility to ensure that FBO services and pricing practices are reasonable and applied in a non-unjustly discriminatory manner.”
We will use the guidance and recommendations to ensure airport sponsors understand their responsibilities and pilots know their rights, and this begins with transparency.
The FAA’s guidance specifically states, “to confirm whether airport fees are reasonable and not unjust[ly] discriminatory, the fees, rates, and charges should be disclosed and made publicly available.”