Former American Airlines chief Robert Crandall, now CEO of nascent air taxi firm Pogo, recently offered a very different solution to the aviation user fee controversy.
Speaking to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce gathering in Washington, D.C., he said that the general public should pick up more of the airways system tab.
“The big problem is that the administration keeps reducing the amount contributed by the general fund,” he stated. That’s the sea of taxpayer money from which most government expenses are paid.
The FAA currently draws its budget from ticket and aviation fuel taxes as well as the general fund. Crandall did not propose eliminating existing taxes, only that a larger portion of the FAA budget should be borne by all taxpayers, which infers a lowering of current taxes.
“Since all Americans benefit from aviation and the travel and tourism industry it supports, and since aviation is an extraordinarily important component of our economy, it is clear to me that the public should pay for a major share of the cost of maintaining the aviation infrastructure,” Crandall proposed.
That’s a very different approach from the one currently being taken by the airline industry, which wants to impose user fees on general aviation and eliminate the existing tax on passenger tickets, which helps to fund the air traffic system. The airlines also want the current fuel tax reduced or eliminated, although it is paid by all buyers of aviation fuels, and see air traffic system user fees as the “fair” way to fund the FAA.
General aviation, on the other hand, has argued primarily for the status quo, and is lobbying hard against user fees, which are seen as onerous new taxes.
Crandall’s third way is very appealing, but almost certainly would be shot down by an administration and Congress already at odds over general fund expenditures.