Aviation tax reform…indeed

Jeff Smisek is the CEO of United Airlines. His CEO Letter in the November issue of Hemispheres Magazine was titled, “Aviation Tax Reform,” which caught my eye.

“The taxation system across transportation modes is broken, and airlines and our customers are paying the price for this irrational structure,” laments Mr. Smisek. The government imposes “17 different taxes and fees” on his customers and his airline.

The CEO of one of the nation’s preeminent carriers is calling for a simplified tax structure for the airline industry. You have my support Mr. Smisek.

However, he also mentioned he is “proud to provide safe and reliable air transportation to more than 360 airports across six continents around the globe.”

Wow — 360 airports on six continents. That represents about 7% of the publicly available airports in the U.S.

Being a global airline, United Airlines competes with carriers, “many of which benefit from a supportive tax and regulatory climate in their respective countries.” So this is about competition and fairness.

Mr. Smisek, if a simplified tax structure is good for United Airlines, then it is good for American Airlines, and Gulfstream, and Cirrus, and Aviat and, more importantly, the owners and operators of those aircraft.

Part 121, Part 135 and Part 91 operators are far more similar than dissimilar. How’s about if WE work together to the benefit of us all?


Elsewhere in the magazine was a full page ad touting NationalAirlinePolicy.com. On the website was a 2-minute video promoting just such a policy. It complains about high taxes, growing fuel prices, burdensome regulations and outdated ATC. Pretty sure I’ve heard these complaints before.

Further proof we should all just work together to mutual gain.

As an aside, I wonder if the federal government rolled out “17 different taxes and fees” all at once, or if they layered them on one at a time? Hmmm.


  1. says

    I as a student that made the transition to pilot feel that my m flight time was paid for by use of fuel. I paid directly to the services rendered by my fuel . So the airlines milk the
    passengers by bags they carry (used to be free) & tickets prices. So they are saying as General aviation we are not paying our fair share. I say not so!

  2. Roger Baker says

    I think it’s odd that, in a video used to promote a tax cut for airlines in America, the airplane pictured is from Europe (Airbus A340).

    • Anonymous says

      Even more surprising is noticing irrelevant details. Taxation is important problem but look they show airbus… that is European… not American. Europe is liberal. Liberal is communist. Communist is bad. So this whole video is bad. Damn Obamacare!

  3. Ed Watson says

    Well well gentlemen we MUST all work together or we will fall together. The GA crowd (AOPA, EAA, IAEA, GAMA,) as well as AA, UAL, Delta, and the foreign airlines, and the USAF to convince our legislators that “aviation” affect and effects us all, even those that don’t fly. A rising tide raises all ships that are not overly anchored to the seabed.

    • Bryan says

      That kind of thinking, (“all in it together”), is why we are twenty years down the road and still insisting on a one size fits all replacement for 100LL. Very few, (less than 20%), of the GA fleet needs the high octane, or any of the other effects from the lead. 100LL can’t be transported except in dedicated containers because of the lead, so we all pay for a boutique fuel which only a few need.

      It would have been far cheaper for me to subsidize an STC needed by that small minority when they hit TBO than to pay the exorbitant cost of 100LL for the past twenty years. We could just stop stalling 91UL, introduce that fuel, and let those airplane owners that need the higher octane see the economics of working up an STC in light of the much cheaper fuel everyone else is using.

      BTW, the legislators don’t seem to be a problem at the moment, and while they are hopefully getting back to their roots; AOPA hasn’t really represented the best interest of GA in recent years. Just saying you might want to update some of your basic assumptions.

  4. Greg W says

    Ben, We indeed do all use the same airspace, however the airlines are a little different. The can as Steve said pass on many of these fees. The private flyer or corprate aircraft cannot directly pass an additional cost to the passenger. The airlines have the political clout to block many from “their” airspace, class B. The airlines’ executives/owners would not mind at all becoming Aeroflot and having full monopoly of the skies. They still get most of the crews from the military and don’t need G.A. One thing that was very interesting when I worked 135 airfreight was that the competitors would fly loads if our birds were not available. They did this because we would do the same. Why? if any of us missed a load the customer would go a different route,(trucks), and we would both be out of luck. My point is that “as goes the LSA, so goes the Gulfstream” if WE cannot maintain the open skies for all of us, they will become the sole domain of the “official airline”.

  5. Steve says

    A recent article I read pointed out some of the CEO’s same complaints. It further noted how the airlines have no problem with hitting customers with many fees for this and that which directly hit at those who bring business and prosperity to those airlines. This CEO needs to be careful of throwing rocks in his glass house.

  6. Bryan says

    Simplified taxes for the airlines? What is good for United Airlines is good for GA? ‘We are all the same’, kumbaya, etc., etc?

    My aviation taxes are high too, but they are placed on my fuel, just as they should be. The more I burn, the more I pay. I pay a lot on every gallon of 100 octane fuel that my airplane does not require, but is the only fuel available to me.

    I am a private citizen using my airspace for private travel. This is my right as a citizen.

    United Airlines is a commercial company using my airspace to make a buck. Their use of my airspace is very inconvenient to me as the government has established big hunks of Class B airspace everywhere I travel for the commercial company’s use. In fact, I need to stay out of the commercial carrier’s way. I find this quite peculiar.

    In summary; I am not the same as United Airlines, it is a zero-sum game that is being played between the airlines and GA, and I already pay more than my fair share for the public infrastructure. Mr Smicek needs to quit his bitchin’

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