What's A Fair Ramp Fee?

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Pilots complain—and have always complained—about ramp and parking fees, those annoying gotchas that so bespoil what would otherwise be a magic moment between man and machine. That’s at the core of the current misalignment between AOPA and NATA and the former’s general complaint against three Signature-owned FBOs.

But as far as pilots go, this is a complaint by degree. If you sit the complainant down and ask if he or she wants a well-equipped FBO, friendly line people, clean bathrooms, free coffee and a crew car, you find … acquiescence. That’s because pilots generally realize that running businesses entails costs and they can reasonably be expected to pay a fair share of those costs, plus a margin. Sounds like user fees, no? They are.

So it devolves to a discussion of what’s a fair fee, if one is charged at all. In my view, in the absolute, I’ll pay $20 to $25 for a single-engine airplane without blinking and maybe up to $40 for a twin. But my—and probably your—idea of what’s fair isn’t the same as what’s realistic unless we can see the FBO’s P&L. You have probably noticed that FBOs come and go like the weather. If they were reliably profitable entities, why would they change hands so often?

At big-city FBOs, overhead expenses paid to the airport owner may be higher and have to be recovered through fees and fuel sales margin if the FBO is to keep the lights on. Hence, higher fees and fuel prices. But maybe those big-city operations are actually making a killing because we only think they’re more expensive to operate. Show me the P&L and I could have a more informed opinion.

AOPA’s complaint is against three Signature operations at Key West, Florida; Asheville, North Carolina; and Waukegan, Illinois, where Signature is an effective monopoly on the field. Seven aircraft owners joined the complaint. The basis of the complaint is FAR 13, which allows aggrieved parties to complain to the FAA that high fees discriminate against some users at airports where federal AIP funds are spent for improvements.

Just for the record, at Key West, Signature charges $6.71 for 100LL, at Waukegan $6.60 ($5.90 self-serve) and at Asheville $6.97. According to airnav.com, the current national average for 100LL is $4.74.  Collateral fees seem to be all over the map. At Key West, according to the comment section on AirNav, sometimes the fee is waived with fuel purchase, sometimes not. Said one commenter: “Called two days ago to check fees, was told $20 facility fee and $20/night parking. Then I read the AirNav comments and thought can this be the same place? Called back yesterday to recheck and was told $140 facility fee and $140/ night parking. With a planned four-night stay, we obviously ended up landing KMTH instead. It's only an hour drive. This is the most outrageously expensive airport I've ever checked fees at. No reason to go here.” But that comment occurred before Signature took over last year.

I reviewed all the comments for Key West and found 28 favorable, 20 unfavorable, but sentiment was split evenly since Signature took over early last year. In any case, when I called to check fees on Sunday, Signature said the single-engine handling fee is $25, waived with a fuel purchase of 7 gallons. Overnight parking is $23.65, but seems to vary by model. These fees aren’t published, so you have to call to get them. Those fees are on the high side for me, but not outrageous and not, in my view, “egregious” as AOPA insists. Up the road in Marathon, fuel is $5.98, the $15 ramp fee is waived with fuel purchase and tiedown is $15 a night. It’s about an hour drive down to Key West from Marathon.

If you do even the minimal math and you bought 50 gallons of fuel, by flying into Marathon, you’d save $35 on gas and $8 a night on tiedown, so call it $60 for a three-day stay. Lunch for two on Duval Street. Throw in the rental car and you’re spending more than just landing in Key West in the first place. That’s the size of the difference we’re talking about here. If it’s the principle of the thing, I get it. Be my guest. Not sure I would bother, even as cheap as I am. I’m no fan of Signature either and routinely avoided this franchise because of high fees and fuel prices. But that’s not the same as wanting government intervention to lower them. I’m not going to plug all this into a spreadsheet, but I will stipulate the cost delta for a twin or a turbine might be more. Comments about Asheville or Waukegan were similarly negative and similarly mixed. AOPA says it has gotten many complaints about these airports.

But does this rise to the level of exclusionary pricing? Are pilots discriminated against to the extent they can’t come to Key West for lack of competitive pricing? Is a Part 13 complaint justified? I don’t see a convincing argument here. There are other exclusive places where it’s just more expensive to fly. Take Teterboro, for instance. (Yeah, take it.) Avgas is between $7.44 and $8.10 and at Meridian, the top-rated FBO, the ramp fee for a single is $55, waived with a fuel purchase. (They’ve got the cheapest gas, at $7.44) Yet … the AirNav comments are almost uniformly positive for two reasons: People probably expect to pay more because of the location and the service gets raves. Said one customer: “As per many previous reviews. I showed up in a ratty old C-172 and was treated as well as everyone else. They arranged a car service to make a lunch in Manhattan, had the best fuel prices, and were thoroughly professional.”

You could argue that competition on the field hones their performance, but I’d also argue that it’s more than that. Businesses with a customer-centric focus usually benefit from management that’s customer focused. And that gets me back to Signature and perhaps the real value of AOPA’s complaint. If I were a Signature manager and saw that many complaints against my business, I’d consider it a five-alarm fire and I’d figure out how to fix it. FBOs like Meridian clearly do it in a high-cost market and Signature ought to as well.

As for the FAA complaint, what’s the agency going to do, wade in and set fuel and ramp fee prices? Should the cities at these three airports do that? They do have a say. Clearly, the airport hosts are allowed and even required by the FAA to produce revenue through hangar rentals and other fees. At my home airport, the city was actually dinged for not charging enough for leased ground to private businesses. Can they similarly determine a business is charging too much? I suppose. I just don’t think Signature’s fees cross that threshold.

Perhaps what the FAA should do is determine that the fees are consistent. Judging from the AirNav comments, they are not. Some pilots were clearly charged more than others. Increasingly, airports are levying “security” and “infrastructure” fees that are tacked on to ramp and parking fees. Key West has one of these, at $5. Other airports not named in the complaint are also adding on these fees. Again, these are user fees or taxes by another name. Second, why can’t these public-access airports have a parking area for which there is no charge and no services? Walk yourself to the fence exit and carry your own bags. That would address the denial of access for pilots who just don’t want to pay the FBO’s bathroom cleaning bill. High fuel prices aren’t denial of access; you can get gas elsewhere.

Comments (27)

After extensive research I've concluded that ramp fees are the cause and effect of the pilot population decline. Perhaps better described as an FBO's abuse of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force. Shock and awe at the ramp. Something like that.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 3, 2017 10:20 PM    Report this comment

Flying from KBED, we occasionally hear from those who had to drop off or pickup at KBOS's Signature. $300 for 15 minutes at the gate is apparently typical... There are several components to the fee. I have memories of stopping there on a day trip to Boston or Cambridge in the 1990s (ILS 4R for the big guys, with cross to 4L with field in sight for the little 'uns), but not any more.

Posted by: scott kirkpatrick | September 4, 2017 3:16 AM    Report this comment

Well, as a minimum, the fees charged by FBO's ought to be public and ought to be fairly stable and not changed day by day or aircraft by aircraft, within reason. A pilot ought to be able to know -- in advance -- what his/her costs are going to be without having to make a phone call. Raf is right ... these folks are biting the hand that feeds them. A chicken or egg issue for sure.

At my summer 'hideout,' I have an A/C band radio sitting right next to my desk. I often hear pilots of chartered heavy iron calling in on Unicom miles out to ensure that their PAX have their rental car and all the usual requests for airports within range. That's one end of the spectrum. At the other, the folks flying bug smashers trying to learn how to pull back on the stick and make the houses get smaller without hurting themselves. They can't afford such fees on top of everything else. Your "five alarm" example is right on point.

My first airplane many decades ago was a C150. I remember flying into PSP and being parked at a distant parking ramp and brought to the FBO by a van. No one knew what I was flying ... just that I was flying in. The FBO was superb, as I remember it. No fee other than buying fuel. How did we get to THIS point?

The City where I'm currently at recognizes the airport as one of its economic engines and is very careful to entice people to fly in. We have a donated airport car and everyone on the field goes out of their way to help transients. The crew car has the name of the airport on it so that businesses in town recognize where their business came from. Then again, we don't have fences or security or any of the usual irritants. We do have a donation jar and most pilots leave something.

Years ago, the Corp. I worked for in St Augustine used to pay its employee bonuses with stacks of $2 bills at Christmastime. It didn't take the locals long to recognize how important that Company was to its economy. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 4, 2017 4:22 AM    Report this comment

I have heard of some FBOs charging ridiculous (>$50 for non-metro areas) ramp fees, KBED being one of them. On the other end of the spectrum, you have uncontrolled single-runway, single "FBO" airports near metro areas that charge almost nothing. To me, it seems as though it's more than just an FBO choosing to charge high fees (though I'm sure in some cases that is the reason). I know in some cases, it's the airport that causes the high fees, and the FBOs are just passing that onto their customers as any business that's trying to make a profit would do.

I think the real complaint isn't so much high ramp fees as it is having no choice but to use the one high-end jet-catering expensive FBO when all the pilot wants is a clean bathroom, a room for checking weather and filing a flight plan, and place to wait for their ride or taxi to pick them up. Sometimes not even that last point if the reason for the stop is a fuel or nature break. Maybe these FBOs should be required to have a "no service" side, where you walk in one door and only have access to the bathroom, parking lot, and briefing room, and another door that leads to the full-service side of the business. Charge a minimal fee for the no service side, if necessary.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | September 4, 2017 7:55 AM    Report this comment

Some key points: unlike fuel prices, the fees are not published (!) and they vary considerably even if you call in advance. And being unpublished, you have no basis for sorting out a "misunderstanding." This is key to disadvantaging consumers and competition; see below.

But focusing on fuel prices misses a point. In practice, if you know the prices are too high, you can plan to not buy fuel there. But with unpublished fees, they typically force you to buy fuel to exercise your "choice" to avoid fees. And those fees are fluid; see above. So you end up paying extra either way. Gotcha! So it's much more than just fuel costs...

It's not just about competition between airports (like EYW/MTH example) but competition on the airport, especially for larger airports. KOPF is a prime example. Multiple FBOs all with super high fees, lavish facilities, fluid and deceptive fees... I could go on.

What's missing from this and other articles on this subject is the relationship between the airport authority and the FBOs. It's not just the FBOs. The airports are allowing/enabling this situation. The public-provided funds keep flowing either way.

What's needed is that public tie-down area with access through the fence. As a piston single driver, I don't need or want the lavish facilities. Sometimes I just need a place to pick up and drop off my elderly mother when I visit KOPF to pick her up for the holidays. But they (FBOs and airports authorities) force me through the FBOs designed for high-end JET-A customers. But I can't opt-out. It's not just that there's low competition -- but that the conditions for competition are not present. Were that option provided, many pilots would opt-out and that would even the playing field...

I could go on Paul, but I'd be happy to counter your position over a beer. I think you are under-representing real issues here. Blue Skies!

Posted by: Bradley Spatz | September 4, 2017 8:34 AM    Report this comment

Let's stop ignoring the big grey mammal in the corner with tusks, shall we? There are some operations who don't want certain customers. It's because some of their most valuable customers will complain. And, let's be totally honest, sometimes some of us piston guys are doing a pretty good job justifying the complaints.

Those sorts of operations have no business being monopolies. And, I really don't care if there is another airport an hour away. An hour drive creates a really big zone where it makes no sense to fly at all. Just drive and avoid the whole mess.

A little asphalt could save everyone a lot of trouble. Perhaps the FAA or the alphabets ought to set a fee level above which things get looked at for additional ramp requirements?

The reality is that a public airport isn't really public without a free, or cheap, tie down area.

Posted by: Eric Warren | September 4, 2017 10:02 AM    Report this comment

I second (third?) the concept that a taxpayer-supported public airport really should have a "no services-no fee" ramp with external access. Unfortunately, for air carrier airports this comes up against the 9/11 security mandates...who will pay for the required manned access control?

As far as FBO charges are concerned, I'm not sure there is that big a problem. Sure, given the number & variety of operations out there there will always be a few egregious gougers, but a little preflight planning will generally ferret them out and there are virtually always alternatives.

I typically fly the ageing A36 coast to coast at least once a year and stop plans hinge on desired services. Fuel & potty only stops are based purely on route convenience and fuel price, no extra fees, and those are easy to find. Lunch stops add the need for either on-field cafe or a crew car, but again a little research usually brings up at least a few inexpensive candidates. Overnights, and particularly destination stops, are where FBO charges become a consideration. Like Paul I am good with moderately elevated fuel cost ($5.95 w/no ramp charge OK, $7.95 no way!) and up to say $20 tiedown in return for convenience and a little service, popcorn a plus, and there doesn't seem to be any problem meeting this criteria. Twice we've left the plane at KFLL (Lauderdale International) while we went on 7 &10 day cruises, once at Signature and once at Jetscape, and it didn't break the bank.

Posted by: John Wilson | September 4, 2017 10:47 AM    Report this comment

As far as I'm concerned, sell fuel for whatever you want. I'll tanker in fuel or deal with it. That's business.

I'm also fine with exclusionary pricing at "big" airports (and I mean Class B's here). Space is at a premium, and most little guys are going to gum up the works. Keep out people who absolutely shouldn't be there. Same thing with Oshkosh, honestly. Keep things professional.

But everywhere else? The idea of having to pay Signature $50 to walk from plane to car at KBED is not reasonable. Those airports are "reliever" airports for a reason. Either there needs to be a no-services ramp with access to and from the parking lot for a reasonable price ($25 for access, $25 / night parking for a piston single, lets say) or the FBO needs to allow it.

If you want any services at all, they can charge for them, but a public airport is a public airport, and exclusionary or monopoly pricing for access to and from the ramp and runway is not reasonable.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | September 4, 2017 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Here's the problem with Class B's: The combination of airspace restrictions, property values, and politics often combine to reduce or eliminate small airports in their area. Or, they push so much business to the "reliever" that it ceases to be piston friendly itself!

Now, locals and visitors have to drive 45 minutes or more longer to reach the destination they could have if they were able to land at an airport that can easily get them into the pattern. Of course, some of the hubs are just too busy for piston traffic, but let's not just surrender on that. Let's make a point of reminding everyone how reasonable we are being by ceding our right to use those PUBLIC airports. Otherwise, they start at an advantage when setting the requirements.

We'll happily agree to be kept out of O'hare, just reopen Miegs Field!

Posted by: Eric Warren | September 4, 2017 2:30 PM    Report this comment

Paul, and many others here, have the best compromise. Let the FBO charge what they want to charge--just require the FAA to provide no-service access as part of their "public accommodations" in their funding.

At St. Paul Downtown airport, the 1930s former airline terminal building served as a drop-off point for many years. If you wanted to be in town for the day--or just drop off or pick up passengers--you could utilize that access. No services on the ramp, and no overnight parking.

When Signature bought the FBO some years ago--that option ceased.

People often ask "with security today, how would you give access?" The answer--we no longer have paper licenses--make your pilot license your access card. After all, you are required to now have a TSA check prior to getting a student certificate anyway, and required to divulge convictions for felonies anyway--including drug and alcohol convictions. I'd gladly accept having my pilot's license provide access to remote and free parking. Perhaps it couldn't be implemented at ALL airports, but certainly would at most.

Posted by: jim hanson | September 4, 2017 3:36 PM    Report this comment

I've gotten several e-mails in the background pin-pointing where the nexus of the problem: It's the deals Signature and other FBOs negotiate with the cities, not the fees themselves. And not fuel prices. Those deals always give the FBOs complete control of the ramp as a condition of acceptance.

I don't know why the airport hosts do this. Maybe they don't realize that owners of small aircraft are being encumbered with fees for services they don't need or want. Does it really take that to entice an FBO to take the business?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 4, 2017 4:16 PM    Report this comment

Paul,

I'm guessing it's less the FBO needs it so much as the cities don't care. The airport is an annoyance that they're required to keep operating because of arrangements with the FAA that date back as far as WW2. If the FBO asks for it, they'll grant it, it means they can stop thinking about the airport for a while longer.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | September 4, 2017 6:52 PM    Report this comment

The combination of the "ATC" blog and the "Ramp Fee" blog certainly has produced a fascinating display of privilege, entitlement, and... "frugality."

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | September 4, 2017 7:00 PM    Report this comment

The concept of the airport property owner/operator providing a no-frills low-cost parking option seems like the no-brainer solution to me. It would seem to be the exact parallel to the municipal parking lot or garage one might find in town when arriving by car. The city recognizes it's a beneficial service to provide parking for cars. They don't hand over full control of the parking options to a for-profit entity. They don't sell gas, have valet service, rent cars, provide lounges, computers or popcorn - just a place to park your vehicle for a reasonable price. That's what I'd like to have available when flying into town to visit my daughter and her family for dinner.

Posted by: Frank Arrison | September 4, 2017 9:04 PM    Report this comment

SO ... lemme see if I have this right. FBO's sell fuel to users, some of the money paid goes back to the government as a "fair share" tax to fund the aviation 'system,' some of that money then goes back to the airports in the form of grants to keep the airport open and infrastructure up and -- in some places -- the monopolistic FBO's are selling the gas at exorbitant rates and are charging just to park that airplane on that same "public" airport as a form of exclusion.

Helluva deal if you can get it ! And we wonder why GA is dying a slow death in the US. (sigh)

Methinks I will now start watching where Signature is operating and ensure that I ain't. No need to make a fuel cost phone call. Guess I won't be flying to Waukegan any time soon. Problem solved. As a "rich" GA airplane owner ... I can control where I spend my bucks by changing the magenta line on my GPS.

To be fair, I see there is a discount for weekend fuel and self-serve but five of six comments seen on a popular aviation info website for UFN were negative ... most on cost. Looking at the fuel costs for Kenosha, just 11 mi north, the fuel was nearly $2 cheaper and ALL of the seven comments seen were glowingly positive. This ain't hard. ENW it is, then. I can roll up to the pump at my nearby airport and fuel up for $3.90 ... what's different at UFN?

Hey Mr. Signature/BBA Aviation ... are ya listenin' ? Let's hear your side of this story.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 5, 2017 12:02 PM    Report this comment

Airports are subsidized by taxpayers to varying degrees. Some public airports are built at complete taxpayer expense; many private airports that are public use participate in the AIP and have are maintained and supported by taxpayers as well. Because of this public support, I believe that there should be some restraints on what may be charged to use the facility. I don't have a one-size-fits all solution to figuring it out, but at the bottom, I think it is a political decision and likely a local political decision. But one cabined by the various federal regulations that guide the AIP and other airport infrastructure programs.

Companies operating FBOs and other concessions at public airports benefit from the taxpayer investments ... they should not have unlimited discretion to set fees for basic use of the runway and ramp.

From a supply/demand perspective, must ramps are mostly empty most of the time ... I could see a demand pricing model making sense. No fees with purchases for the lonely times, but perhaps a princely sum during state fair week etc. Demand pricing could work fairly well at TEB and similar busy airports too.

High prices all the time (like Signature's) even in relatively sleepy locations doesn't seem to make microeconomic sense. Local governments are likely making bad deals with the FBO operators that suppress light GA utilization of their airports. Of course, a municipality may want to suppress light GA activity for their own reasons, and favor medium GA and corporate operations. Everyone don't love the bug smasher traffic. Rumor has it that the bug smasher drivers eat too much popcorn and cookies, clog the toilet, then leave w/o buying gas.

Posted by: DON HUDDLER | September 5, 2017 12:07 PM    Report this comment

There should be no fee to park at a public airport which is paid for by taxes paid on fuel in general. If security is the reason being given by FBO for such charges then those security requirement are there because the airport has airline operations and those cost should be covered by the fees on the airline tickets. Second, there should be a requirement to have competition at all airports who accept federal funds for any improvement. One FBO should not be allowed to have a monopoly and airport operators/counties/cities, etc should be required to have systems in place to assure a monopoly does not exist at a public airport. The present Part 13 wording does not cover such situation and the FAA has become a paper tiger and is failing to enforce to present rules.

Posted by: Felix Lococo | September 6, 2017 2:39 AM    Report this comment

So now we're told that every little one-3,000-foot-runway-dust-lot that has accepted federal funds for painting its centerline should be required to be home to more than one FBO. And when no one volunteers for this business-suicide mission??? Well it IS a Public Airport, after all, so I guess that means that the government will just have to run the place itself - right? I guess I have to ask: what foreign government would provide the required competition at Uncle Sam Regional Aerodrome?

This is the most entertaining blog of the year. Required services. Required competition. Price controls. But most importantly: no evil "user fees." I think I finally am starting to "get it."

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | September 6, 2017 6:35 AM    Report this comment

Having been a partner in a FBO at a small rural airport, let me tell you, the economics suck! It is amazing how many people will fly in with a planeload of folks who use the bathroom, the phone, clean out the free mint bowl, ask a ton of questions about where to stay, where to eat, what to do, then when they return to the airport use the bathroom, clean out the candy dish again, forget to leave 50 cents for the coffee they drink and blow out without buying fuel or anything else. When asked if they could use some fuel, "Nah we filled up at XXX where it's a dime cheaper.

Posted by: Richard Montague | September 6, 2017 7:28 AM    Report this comment

"Second, there should be a requirement to have competition at all airports who accept federal funds for any improvement. One FBO should not be allowed to have a monopoly and airport operators/counties/cities, etc should be required to have systems in place to assure a monopoly does not exist at a public airport."

I think it should be pretty obvious that not every little single-runway airport needs, or should have, more than one FBO. However, the FAA does require that these airports allow for competition, if competition to the existing FBO does decide to set up shop. I forget where it is mentioned exactly, but I believe it's in the AC that provides recommendations for airport minimum lease standards. It basically says no one FBO is allowed to be granted exclusive access to the airport. But in any case, I can't think of any small rural airport (say, 3500' runway or shorter) that has an FBO charging exorbitant prices. In fact, for most of the ones I know of, I question how they can even break even with the low prices they charge.

It's the larger airports (usually Class-D or larger, though I'm sure there are some larger 2-runway Class-E airports that apply) that have FBOs like Signature charging ridiculously high fees. It is these airports that should have a public no-frills ramp with a self-serve fuel pump, bathroom, and some place to be out of the rain and wind.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | September 6, 2017 7:52 AM    Report this comment

These "egregious fees" are typically less than what it costs to park your car at a major airport or in a major city.

There is always competition between FBOs. If you don't want to fly into BOS because of Signature (or pick your reason), then fly to Bedford where there are three FBOs to choose from. If you don't want to fly into BED because it's still MassPort then fly to Lawrence or Beverly or Norwood, etc. Fuel and fee information is available on Airnav.com and other websites - make your decisions based on price and convenience. When you get there, be pleasant, buy some fuel, tip the line-guy, etc. - give them reasons to want our little planes on their ramp.

Posted by: PHIL RYDER | September 6, 2017 8:06 AM    Report this comment

Yeah, but Richard, it's because you didn't have any competition. If you had competition, you'd have had to find a cheaper vendor for mints. Then you could have made up the losses with volume.

Honestly. People in aviation are so unimaginative.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 6, 2017 8:11 AM    Report this comment

Per the comments on Signature charging $50 so you can walk away from your plane at KBED, I've flown from a local flight school/rental organization (there are several) and we get all of our gas on a discount deal from Signature. Also there is a second FBO (Jet Aviation), so there is competition. Although there hasn't been a scheduled flight from KBED for several years, the TSA ties the field up tight as a tick, with red-lined areas to avoid, badges taking months to obtain and needing yearly renewal, etc. When the clag hangs low in the morning, and I have to wait, the coffee and cookies at Signature are free.

Apparently, however, transients are fair game.

Posted by: scott kirkpatrick | September 6, 2017 10:14 AM    Report this comment

While I appreciate comments such as Tom's and Richard's, I don't appreciate the lack of understanding of the other side. Probably they are reacting in kind, and feel the same. That's the internet.

I think all reasonable folks would prefer that all the FBOs charge whatever they please, and prosper as the market allows. I think we all realize that can only happen in a free market. The second there is not a choice not to buy, there is no free market. Pointing to other airports as competition is a perfectly reasonable response to defend a private airport's policies.

And, no, I don't think it's unreasonable for us to expect the state that used our tax dollars to build expensive runways to pour some asphalt with tie downs to ensure fair use. Otherwise, the airport is not public, but instead a disguised gift to corporate interests.

Like many industries, GA has some broken business models. Richard, I suspect you had an option to charge for space, mints, restrooms, etc. All perfectly fine in a free market. (Charging for the restroom is no longer custom, but restrictions to use by customers are common). The free ramp helps the small FBO by reminding folks of the value they are taking.

If I've got a bad idea here, you guys are not being very persuasive in shooting it down.

Posted by: Eric Warren | September 6, 2017 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Eric:

My opinions about the topic of this blog are flavored by my having been the general manager of a mid-size FBO in the early 1980s. The business always has been one of the most effective ways to build a small fortune in aviation - provided only that you start out with a large one.

The idea of a zero-price alternative to the existing paradigm is pipe-dream nonsense. McDonald's and Burger King can compete with each other, but neither of them could - or WOULD - compete with "free" food provided for the taking, by the government. Like any good Libertarian, I differentiate between "price" and "cost." Even zero-price items have a cost - it's simply being borne by others.

And while I'm staying busy as a good Libertarian, I feel compelled to confess that I'm always suspicious of any attempt to get you to pay for something for me. I'd really prefer to pay for it myself - as long as it's my decision to buy it in the first place. (ObamaCare would be an exemplar antithesis of that paradigm.)

Implementation of government-mandated/provided zero-price service would have one nearly-universal consequence at the vast majority of small airports in America: it soon would become the ONLY service available at those airports.

Here's a dirty little secret: cities and counties DON'T WANT to operate airports. That's why they contract with FBOs to "provide airside and landside goods and services ON BEHALF OF [sic]."

In the end, there is no free lunch. SOMEBODY has to pick up the cost, regardless of the price. When we confront the phrase "user fee," we'd do well to give as much weight to the first word, as we do to the last.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | September 6, 2017 1:14 PM    Report this comment

"The idea of a zero-price alternative to the existing paradigm is pipe-dream nonsense. McDonald's and Burger King can compete with each other, but neither of them could - or WOULD - compete with "free" food provided for the taking, by the government."

But it's not "free". The airports we're talking about receive AIP funding, which is supposed to be (at least partly) paid for by the aviation fuel tax. Why can't some of those funds go toward the no-frills service?

I won't get in to my views on libertarianism (obviously, I'm not a believer in it), but suffice to say, public infrastructure should allow public access at a reasonable cost. The no-frills access need not be completely devoid of cost, but it certainly should be a lot less than a full-service FBO that caters to high-end aircraft burning Jet-A.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | September 6, 2017 3:29 PM    Report this comment

Tom,
Why would free, short term parking, stop the FBO's from selling fuel or other services? Who maintains the taxiway? Why should I care if the government entity doesn't like its responsibilities any more than I should care that some people don't like speed limits or anything else? Shall we turn over our interstate on ramps to Exxon and Burger King?

Also, why, as a libertarian, would you not object to the government building a facility, then preventing its use by the public unless they pay some private entity a fee set at the whim of said entity?

I'm happy to discuss free vs reasonable price vs $100 a day. I'm afraid if free isn't mandated, there is no mechanism to prevent $100 charges.

Posted by: Eric Warren | September 6, 2017 3:34 PM    Report this comment

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