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AOPA makes detailed case against new Bahamas airport fee

AOPA expressed concerns about the proposed $28-per-passenger fee for international arrivals soon after the Nassau Airport Development Co. proposed the measure in August, justifying the imposition of an additional “airport improvement fee” in part on data showing that GA aircraft have in recent years accounted for about 40 percent of landings at the airport, while providing 11 percent of airport revenue.

AOPA Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs Christopher Cooper noted in written comments submitted September 23 that the percentages were offered without analysis or explanation of what the appropriate balance of revenue might be.

“AOPA understands and supports the need for airports to have adequate funding to maintain the infrastructure and services necessary for the safety, accessibility, and efficiency of its users,” Cooper wrote. “However, AOPA is strongly against unnecessary, unfair, and unreasonable fees and charges that negatively impact and restrict the economic benefit general aviation provides.”

Cooper noted that international GA arrivals already pay a $29 fee for every person aboard, in addition to fees paid to FBOs and customs fees. GA aircraft use separate ramps and are smaller and lighter than air carrier aircraft, so GA operations result in less wear and tear.

“From all accounts, GA currently contributes its fair share to LPIA considering GA’s proportional needs and usages of the existing infrastructure and the fees currently paid” to FBOs, the airport, and the government, Cooper wrote. “In the spirit of fairness and reasonableness, AOPA recommends NAD withdraw this proposed modification to airport fees and charges notice.”

Cooper also noted that it remains unclear how the proceeds would be used if the airport does begin collecting that new $28-per-person fee in February.

“Demanding GA pay a greater share for maintenance and capital improvement costs related to runways, taxiways, parking ramps and terminal buildings that are either used exclusively by air carriers, or damaged at a disproportionate rate by air carrier operations is unnecessary, unfair, and unreasonable,” Cooper wrote. “And while GA is more than willing to pay for justified fees for services and infrastructure that provides direct benefits, it is unreasonable and unfair to expect any entity to pay for fees that are a result of the inability to adequately plan and save for expected debt payments and scheduled capital improvements.”

Cooper said AOPA appreciated the virtual stakeholder briefing on August 31 at which the Nassau Airport Development Co. expressed willingness to consider alternatives. Cooper noted that while the coronavirus pandemic devastated the tourism and air transport sectors, GA remained an active and resilient economic driver: “GA was able to continue to travel to areas like the Bahamas, bringing with it much needed economic benefit to airports and surrounding communities. Since many GA operators cannot pass on added fees and charges to customers, any additional exposure to costs will only discourage travel to those areas.”

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