In August 2017, AOPA filed three Part 13 complaints with the FAA over egregious fixed-base operator fees at three airports, one of which was Waukegan National Airport just outside Chicago. But following recent improvements, AOPA has withdrawn the complaint against Waukegan, acknowledging the steps taken by the airport to make it more accessible and friendlier to pilots.
“Grant Farrell from the Waukegan Port District and Skip Goss, the airport manager, understand the value of general aviation and importance of competition. We thank them for listening to our concerns and taking proactive steps to meet federal grant obligations and improve access,” said AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker.
AOPA’s complaint alleged that Signature Flight Support, the only FBO at Waukegan, was using its monopoly position to force aircraft operators to buy unreasonably priced fuel and pay fees for services that were neither requested nor utilized.
In response, the airport announced in December that it would offer free tiedowns for transient aircraft and a pedestrian gate to access the ramp so pilots and passengers are not forced to go through the FBO. The FBO also reduced the price of self-service avgas from almost $6 a gallon to $4.81. A survey of websites shows avgas off the truck at Signature remains at $6.60.
According to the letter, “The alternative parking area, including wide promotion of its existence, will improve competition at the airport, better ensure the reasonableness of prices and fees for aeronautical services, and protect reasonable airport access.”
The letter notes that Waukegan’s steps match guidance the FAA issued in December to help airport sponsors understand their responsibility in assuring reasonable and non-discriminatory pricing at airports that receive federal funds.
“This is just the sort of response we are hoping for,” Baker said. “Our preference is that airport sponsors and FBOs themselves seek ways to give pilots choices when an FBO has a monopoly. We hope other locations can see Waukegan as a model. In the meantime, we will continue to press other locations to be more transparent with their fee structures and to provide pilots with choices when it comes to which services they choose to use at an airport.”
To learn more about the FBO fees issue and AOPA’s efforts to protect general aviation access, watch this recorded AOPA webinar. Baker and others working on the issue discuss the FAA guidance, how egregious FBO fees affect airport access, and what airports can do to ensure they meet FAA grant obligations.