By Warren D. Morningstar
AOPA is vowing to fight any attempt to discriminate against general aviation at the nation’s airports. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters on Jan. 14 said that airports could increase their landing charges on commercial airlines during busy periods to encourage the airlines to decrease the number of flights at those times. But the aviation community has almost universally rejected so-called “peak-hour pricing” or “congestion pricing.”
“All federally funded airports, by law, must be open to all classes of users without unjust discrimination,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Whether through fees or slot restrictions, airlines and general aviation must be treated reasonably and fairly. And AOPA will do whatever it takes to ensure that principle of law is upheld.”
While FAA airport rates and charges guidelines had previously allowed airports to establish different landing fees during various times of the day, general aviation, the airlines, and even airports have opposed congestion pricing as an ineffective, and ultimately unfair, way to ration airport capacity. The New York Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), established to make recommendations to the Department of Transportation on ways to reduce congestion at the three major airports in the New York area, did not endorse congestion pricing. AOPA was a member of that committee.
“Many members of the working group expressed strong concerns about the application of congestion pricing or auctions as a primary method to allocate airport capacity at New York airports,” said ARC leaders in a Dec. 13 letter to Peters. “There was concern that a congestion pricing or auction system would cause disruption to the market and may not be effective in moving flights out of peak times.”
But the Bush administration ignored the recommendations of the very committee it had chartered to find solutions. Just one month after the committee’s report, the Department of Transportation announced congestion pricing as its solution to the problem.
“Why did they waste taxpayer money chartering an advisory committee if they weren’t going to listen to the recommendations?” said Boyer. “They want to impose ‘market based’ controls whether or not the industry thinks congestion pricing would be an appropriate way to reduce delays.”
Boyer said that general aviation is not the problem when it comes to airline delays, and GA should not be forced to pay a penalty. GA accounts for less than 2 percent of the total operations at JFK, for example.
“To solve the airline delay problems and create an aviation system that serves the needs of all users, we need to add runway capacity and modernize the air traffic control system. And the first step toward that would be passing an FAA funding bill without user fees,” he added.
January 17, 2008