Sen. Phil Leventis (D)of the great state of South Carolina recently submitted a bill that would prevent FBO operators from charging ramp fees to transient customers.
The exact wording of the bill is that an FBO “at an airport located in South Carolina may not charge a fee, including a ramp fee, to aircraft that do not use their services and are parked at the airport less than a full day if any local, state or federal funds have been used to fund or improve the airport.”
The idiocy of this idea is really beyond my comprehension.
I worked at an FBO and heard pilot after pilot complain about paying ramp fees for any number of reasons. On the rare occasion that an aircraft pulls up, drops someone off, and immediately leaves, I can understand not charging anything, IF the FBO decides that the goodwill is a benefit to their business.
While the land may be public, it is leased to private companies that have to turn a profit in any way that they can. The most important avenue for this income is fuel, but with the rising cost of fuel, plane owners are being much more frugal with their fuel purchases. This is where ramp fees come in to ensure that the FBO can actually make some money.
I am curious how exactly an aircraft can be parked on an FBO ramp, and not use their services. From the moment a plane comes onto the ramp, it is likely marshalled by an employee of the FBO. Upon stopping that same employee will likely chock the plane and approach the crew to offer available services. Even if the crew doesn’t need anything else they have already used the services of the FBO.
Let’s say that the plane parks itself so no marshaller was needed, which is unsafe and should never happen, the aircraft is still taking up valuable space on the FBO ramp. It’s true that some days there is plenty of space and it really isn’t a big deal, but during busy days when space is at a premium, why should aircraft owners not have to pay for the real estate they are occupying?
I would say that if an airport wants to support an idea like this they could easily designate a transient ramp where there are absolutely no services available, but even then it would have to be monitored to allow passengers on and off the airport. How will that person get paid?
If a plane is staying for even half a day the crew will have to use some of the services of the FBO to include restrooms, concessions, or a crew car to go and get some food. Does that mean that FBO’s need to start monitoring their bathroom or drinking fountain to ensure customers are paying for all services used?
Clearly I am being somewhat extreme, but most FBO’s are walking a thin line as it is, and if you take away one of the few fallbacks they have then you are making it even harder on them to make a profit, or even pay their bills.
The only way a crazy idea like this would work is if the FBO were to receive some sort of credit for handling aircraft that “didn’t use their services” from the airport. But even then it would be a logistical and bookkeeping nightmare.
I can understand wanting to encourage business aviation in your state, but this is not the way.
What other ways could FBO’s recover their costs if they lost the ability to charge ramp fees?