Price Gouging
A flight into New Bedford (EWB) last August. Once arriving and taxiing to Colonial Air, I parked my C-172 on the ramp as instructed by the attendant. Exiting the plane I walked around and checked that everything looked ok. Using there courtesy car I went to an eye appointment. After returning I was informed by the attendant that I would not be going anywhere today as the front main tire was flat. I asked him to get a Air tank and let’s try filling it with Air. As he was filling the air was coming out just as as it was going in. He stated that since no mechanic was there that it would have to repaired the next day. Miraculously a mechanic showed up and said he could fix it. I told him since the side walls were not affected that all I needed was a tube. And since I had just replaced a tube a month before during my annual, I figured 80-100 bucks would be a reasonable price. He takes off the tire and 20 minutes later he come out and puts back on a brand new tube and tire. Said the tire also had to be replaced. As I went to pay for this service I was astounded to see that the price was $430 for tire,tube, mechanic and taxes. What could I do but pay for it. Hindsight I should of taxied over to another FBO on the field that I had used years earlier that I knew would of been fair with their prices. 
6 Replies
At many regional GA airports pilots have very little choice.  KFTW (Fort Worth) is a clear example.  The two FBOS, American Aero and Texas Jet basically price gouge all 100LL sales at $6.38 and $6.19 per gallon respectively.  And, there are NO other choices.  This is a GA airport.  There is no scheduled carrier service, there are only these two choices.  It is not based on transportation costs as 5 miles up or down the road the fuel is 2-3 dollars a gallon cheaper.  The kicker is this is the only place I can find a hanger.  GA is going to die if things are not made more affordable.  
I am Joe Kildea with AOPA and wanted to first thank you for your comments. Second, airport access as well as transparency are often major issues at the most complained about locations. Should pilots be forced to pay for services and amenities that they don't request or utilize at public-access airports just because they land there? Also, how can/should FBOs communicate these fees to pilots?
Fuel prices are largely available on various websites but not fees.
One interesting development - Waukegan is now offering free tie-downs and alternate ramp access following AOPA's Part 13 complaint. Read AOPA's story here
We are also hosting a webinar on the topic tomorrow evening. If you are interested, learn more and register here
The big jet FOB's are not price gouging. There are sending a message and the message is the big jet FBO's do not want your single engine piston business. The last thing a big jet FBO wants to see on its ramp of Gulfstreams, Challengers and Citiations is a single engine piston aircraft. Because? Ramp space is limited and they make way more money on the big jets, which is what they are set up to service.

Some airports, like PDK (Clairmont Services) and VNY (VNY Park) that have paralell shorter runways are offering service to piston only aircraft at a resonable price. At PDK as of this writing, the big jet FBO is charging $7.27 a gallon for 100LL, that same gas is available on the same airport at the Claimont ramp for $5.10, a difference of $2.17 or about 1/3 less. So, do you think the big jet FBO is hotly competing for the 100LL business? And in cases where you see big jet FBO 100LL more competitively priced, call in advance and ask about the ramp fees and parking fees.

As for the posted Jet A prices, most of those big jets have smart operators that buy contract Jet A fuel far below the posted Jet A price, but they do buy a LOT of it so it works out for the big jet FBO's. 
I too would like to play the 'devil's advocate' just a bit...while I will agree, and have been subject to, price gouging in the past, there is often another side to what is perceived as excessive fees.  Especially if you are having a certificated aircraft worked on.
I finished building my SeaRey (the last 14 months and the bulk of the build) in a professional shop.  They provide this area of the state with avionics repair and install, as well as A&P services.  My educat$ion during my build was vast, not the least of which was my edification as to the 'ins and outs' of servicing aircraft.   From the FBO's and A&P's side...they are usually (if they are smart!) unwilling to "complete" a job with a "just good enough" attitude.  More often than not, service items are discovered in the process of any work quoted and the customer is often placed in the uncomfortable position of..."what do I do now?".  Legally, and of course ethically, the A&P cannot (or definitely should not!) sign off on any servicing or install unless they can stand behind it and satisfy any ensuing investigation in case of an unfortunate outcome later on.
I listened to, and then learned to ignore, many comments such as "...well, I took my plane to their shop and it cost $$$(insert x amount here) more than I thought it would! 
Welcome to general aviation folks!  One of the reasons I fly experimental and possess my own repairman's certificate!!!
My advice, get a good quote up front, go over the options, and if it's a good shop, they will give you a heads up before completing work that will necessitate a second loan on the house!  Second bit of advice is the ole' walk a mile in their moccasins way of thinking....spend a few months observing what goes on in an FBO repair hangar and you will likely have a little more empathy for the hard spot the A&P's are put in....
How about $105 to put a squirt of nitrogen in the front strut of my Cherokee.  It happened at French Valley, CA (F70), two years ago, and I made the decision never to have any maintenance done there again.  Their avionics shop, conversely, is excellent.

My major complaint is with FBOs that charge outrageous ramp fees or outrageous fuel prices.  I don't have a problem with ramp fees, but I do have a problem with high fees when I don't require anything more than a passenger pick-up or drop-off.  FBOs have to make money, I get that, but how about a price break for a Cessna/Cherokee vs a King Air?  This is especially a problem when an FBO is the only location on the field where you can park for a short period of time or deplane passengers.  I know AOPA is helping here, but there are still too many examples of price gouging at FBOs around the country.
Gary - while I am not taking either side of this story I will say that a new tire and tube is likely running the mechanic about $130.00-$150.00 if the mechanic was called in specially for this work, you were probably paying an extra fee say $50-$100 dollars.  In the end it probably wasn't too far off regular pricing.  I had a similar occurrence last year, except it was way out in the middle of west Texas (commanche).  Luckily I was able to borrow the local crew car for a week.  I drove home, ordered all the stuff (desser tire) and came back the following week with the crew car, tools, and a new tube and tire.  I chalked it up to just one more aviation adventure.