The FAA has responded to recent complaints from AOPA and others about rising costs and limited access at some FBOs at public-use airports, issuing a document that aims to clarify the issues. The six-page Q&A (PDF) spells out the various obligations of the FAA, the airport sponsors, the FBO and aeronautical users. “This is an important, welcome and significant first step,” AOPA general counsel Ken Mead told AVweb on Tuesday. Most of the complaints about high fuel prices, and parking fees up to $200 or $300, focus on a small number of airports, about 30 to 50 across the U.S., Mead said. He added that many FBOs refuse to publish their fees, or even to quote them in advance over the phone. “There is a still a lot of work to be done,” Mead said.
AOPA has been working for more than a year to address complaints from pilots about “egregious” fuel prices and parking fees at GA airports. The FAA said these pricing practices could, in some cases, preclude reasonable access to public-use airports. The practices stem from “the continuing consolidation of the FBO industry, the post-9/11 security demands placed on the airport and FBO, the lack of traffic volume to support FBOs, and airport sponsors’ need to operate self-sustaining enterprises,” according to the FAA, plus other factors that have put the FBO business under stress. Airport sponsors have no control over industry consolidation or local market forces, the FAA notes, and the federal government does not regulate the pricing of FBOs.
Mead said that early next year, AOPA plans to start working with NATA to further address some of the issues. And he noted that while the FAA’s Q&A is not direct action, it does leave open the possibility the FAA could intervene if the complaints are not resolved. “We all have to work through this together,” Mead said. “What matters to us is the affordability of flying.”