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Transparency is trending

From creating cost calculators and posting fees online to charting transient parking spaces, fixed-based operators (FBOs) are making progress toward becoming more transparent. And a coalition of industry groups is responsible.

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which represents the FBO industry, is one of the five major groups promoting transparency through the jointly released “Know Before You Go” best business practices. The document details a set of recommended communications practices, including publishing an online list of prices, fees, and charges pilots may incur when landing at an airport. The document was signed by the groups last fall, two years after AOPA began spotlighting the issue based on many complaints from members.

“Know Before You Go” was featured in the spring edition of NATA’s Aviation Business Journalwhere Josh Hochberg, owner of California’s Sonoma Jet Center and chairman of the NATA Airport Business Committee, said publishing fees is a win-win resolution.

“Publishing fees online is easy enough—I had my website manager finish it over a weekend, so that now customers can go on to our website, select their aircraft from a drop-down menu, and immediately see all the fees they’ll be charged at Sonoma Jet Center,” said Hochberg.

Sonoma Jet Center is just one of many FBOs that have adopted transparent practices, which include publishing fees through AOPA’s Airport Directory online. Larry Wade, president of Golden Isles Aviation in St. Simons Island, Georgia, was among the first to utilize the directory.

“We want to show that we are good players in the industry and on these kinds of issues when we hear concerns from a group like AOPA we can say, ‘Yes, we hear you’ and ‘Sure, we want to help you out’—for me, it really is as simple as that,” said Wade.

Garmin is another industry leader that announced that its Garmin Pilot electronic flight bag service will include information from AOPA’s Airport Directory to inform pilots of expected fees.

But it’s not just smaller facilities that have taken steps to become more transparent, even major FBO chains are jumping on board including Duncan Aviation, which recently announced the introduction of its FBO Services Calculator to help pilots account for all service charges and fees when landing at a Duncan facility.

Signature Flight Support, the largest FBO provider in the world, has posted piston aircraft fees online at most locations, but has yet to provide the same for larger aircraft like jet and turboprops, despite AOPA’s recent work.  

“The heart of this issue is transparency for all pilots. And over the past two years, we have seen great strides to improve what pilots expect when they fly into an FBO,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “NATA’s support has helped elevate this issue to another level. Along with more support from EAA, GAMA, NBAA, and HAI, I believe we are making progress on a very important problem that was overlooked for far too long.”

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