NATA, AOPA Spar Over FBO Fees
Some FBOs are charging too much for minimal services to general aviation pilots, AOPA said in a report posted online last week. “No one is watching,” said AOPA general counsel Ken Mead. "There’s a fox in the henhouse and no one is paying attention.” AOPA has complained to the FAA, citing incidents of transient pilots being charged exorbitant rates for parking or even just stopping on a ramp, and argued that some kind of free access should be allowed since airports are publicly funded. AOPA also singled out Signature Flight Support, which they said frequently buys out competitors and then raises prices. On Monday, NATA (the National Air Transportation Association, representing aviation businesses) responded with a report defending the industry practices.
“[AOPA’s] presentation to the FAA likens FBOs to public utilities and requests the agency examine oversight mechanisms in other industries as possible models,” said NATA President Martin Hiller. “That is a pure and straightforward move toward economic regulation.” FBOs already are regulated by the FAA, Hiller said. “There are existing FAA mechanisms to address situations where an FBO or airport is violating grant assurance requirements to furnish services on a 'reasonable, and not unjustly discriminatory, basis,'” Hiller said. AOPA President Mark Baker disagrees. “Essentially the FBOs are a concessionaire,” he said. “The problem is, pilots don’t have a choice of purchasing services or not. They are charged just for showing up—held hostage, if you will … This is an area where we are not going to give up.”