CEOs Appeal To Passengers In Fight For User Fees
If you've found yourself
absent-mindedly thumbing through the in-flight magazines onboard
several major carriers recently, you've had the opportunity to
enjoy some fine fiction, in addition to that five dollar snack box
and half-can of Coke, according to aviation letter groups such as
the National Business Aviation Association.
Passengers flying Continental, American, US Airways, Northwest,
and United have been reading editorials from the CEOs of those
respective carriers, each with a common message: you, the
passenger, are helping to pay for corporate bigwigs flying around
in their bizjets, taxing an already-stressed air traffic control
The editorials are an attempt to garner support for the FAA's
proposed airline-backed funding plan.
"What that means, as crazy as it sounds, is that airlines and
our customers (that's you!) are paying a subsidy -- to the tune of
$1.5 billion a year--to the companies and individuals who can
afford their own aircraft," writes American Airlines CEO Gerard
Arpey in the most recent edition of American Way, the company's
Forbes reports the editorial also tells customers to contact
their congressmen if they want a system "that does not force
passengers to subsidize corporate aircraft."
Hogwash, replies NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, who sent a
fiery letter to United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton regarding that
airline's "Contact Congress" initiative, asking passengers to take
up the fight bandied by the Air Transport Association and other
pro-airline interests, to impose user fees on corporate
"Your e-mail provides no
factual information about what is needed for system transformation,
but instead makes a blatant attempt to encourage ill-informed
support from people who are justified in their frustration with
this summer's unprecedented airline delays," Bolen writes.
ATA maintains the number of small aircraft and corporate jets
using the ATC system has exploded tenfold since 1970, to 18,000
planes -- and user fees haven't risen to keep pace, burdening
airline passengers who have had to shoulder the responsibility
The Alliance for Aviation Across America rebuts those claims,
saying airlines would enjoy a government handout if user fees were
implemented -- with none of the savings enjoyed by the airlines
passed along to customers.
Aviation consultant Michael Boyd says both sides "have gone a
little overboard" with their claims, and passengers are still going
to have to suffer through delays no matter how the user fee battle
now being waged in the House and Senate plays out.
"We're just slicing up the pie differently," he says. "I
guarantee you won't see a penny less in airfares."