There’s been a lot of talk and publicity lately about FBO’s who practice predatory pricing and who are driving piston aircraft out of certain airports. Their ramp fees, minimum fuel purchases, and outlandish fuel prices are only possible because of the tight monopoly they hold on their host airfields. Those of us at our home airport in Kansas City had to put up with this before the city decided to install self-serve 100LL pumps and finally allowed a second FBO to enter the arena. We now have some of the lowest priced avgas in the area.
Equally unfortunate are those pilots and operators among us who think that they should be able to use all the services and facilities that hard-working and honest FBO operators provide without ever having to spend a dime. They show up, occupy valuable ramp space, use the pilot lounges and flight planning rooms, take advantage of the restrooms, want to use the courtesy car, and even have their passengers park their own cars for extended periods in the provider’s parking lot. Yet, they are the first to complain when assessed a fee. Frankly, they’re like a welfare deadbeat who cheats the system and, while they’re doing it, complain their benefits don’t include beer and cigarettes.
My policy when travelling away from my home airport is to always buy gas from the local airport businesses. I’ll even pay extra for full-service just as a way to show my appreciation for their presence which almost always makes my travel easier. That’s not to say that I don’t shop for prices and review ratings before finalizing my plans; I do. But I refuse to be someone who operates like the entire aviation infrastructure is there for me. Personally, I’m thankful for those entrepreneurs who are trying to keep their airport businesses afloat and I want them to succeed. You should too.
The next time you’re at a new destination and need services -- however minor -- take a few minutes to look around and estimate the cost the operator is bearing on your behalf. Then, break out your wallet and buy some gas.