The City of Dallas says it’s time general aviation traffic using Love Field (DAL) begins paying its fair share of what it costs the city to operate the airport. Until a new policy begins July 1, general aviation operators pay for airport services through a fuel tax, a portion of which is directed back to the airport, while commercial airline traffic pay additional fees based on aircraft landing weight and their amount of airport usage.
That’s all changing on July 1 when the City of Dallas will add a new landing fee for general aviation operations, in addition to the fuel tax contribution, that Assistant City Manager Jody Puckett said in a statement could run as high as $5.80 per 1,000 pounds of aircraft weight. The city cited data captured between July 2016 and September 2017 as the premise behind the new fees. “GA aircraft landings represented 36% of the total number of aircraft landings,” while those aircraft accounted for just “10% of total aircraft landing weight.” The city added, “ … it has been our experience that most airfield O & M costs are affected by the volume of aircraft operations, regardless of aircraft weight.”
A City Council report last October looked closely at how much money various aircraft operators paid toward airport maintenance and concluded, “with the increasing air traffic at Dallas Love Field, the operations and maintenance costs are expected to increase.” Most importantly, the city decided, “general aviation users are not paying their fair share for airfield activity.”
The city explained pragmatically that, “In an emergency, each GA aircraft landing requires the same airport resources (DFR personnel, airport operations staff, etc.) as provided for commercial air carriers.” They also detailed the nuts and bolts of the landing math. “An 80/20 formula was selected to place more weight (80%) on the GA aircraft landing ratio and less weight (20%) on the GA aircraft landing weight ratio. 80% of the weighted ratio is based on GA aircraft landings (36% of total aircraft landings) and the remaining 20% based on GA landed weight (10 % of total aircraft landed weight).”
The rest of the math is simple, according to the city. With the airport’s 2018 maintenance budget sitting slightly above $20M, the GA portion of those expenses would demand about 31 percent of the total, or approximately $6.2M. The city expects to receive $1.3M in GA fuel flowage dollars leaving a gapping $4.9M hole in the budget. The GA landing fee necessary to close this budget gap is $5.80 per 1,000 pounds of landing weight.
A city doesn’t believe the new fee with adversely affect GA traffic, however. “The implementation of a general aviation landing fee will have an effect on some users of the airfield, however given most other commercial airports charge landing fees, the impact should be minimal.”
Some critics believe the new landing fees were actually created to drive GA traffic away from Love Field to make room for more air carrier operations. Dallas Aviation Director Mark Duebner told Dallas’ NBC TV affiliate, “We’d be more than happy to accommodate anyone that needed a home other than Love Field to move to Dallas Executive (RBD).” That airport, 11 miles south of DAL, does not charge landing fees to GA traffic.