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Sat, Jul 07, 2007

Aviation Groups Rail Against Anti-GA Airline Magazine Editorials

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 network.

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 in-flight magazine.

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 aviation.

"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 instead.

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."

FMI: Read Bolen's Letter, www.aviationacrossamerica.org, www.nbaa.org, www.airlines.org

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