JetBlue Splits With ATA On Calculating User Fees
July 29, 2009
  • Share
  • By Lori Ranson/Aviation Daily


    JetBlue has declared its opposition to the Air Transport Association’s FAA funding proposal and mounted its own campaign on Capitol Hill last week urging law makers to reject ATA’s suggestions.

    Carrier CEO Dave Barger sent letters to heads of pertinent committees in the House and Senate outlining JetBlue’s arguments and declaring ATA’s proposal “thinly veiled.”

    The airline takes exception to two aspects of ATA’s proposal – the domestic distance tax and exemptions for the first 250 miles of a domestic flight.

    JetBlue argues that ATA is opting to measure distance flown using a “great circle” calculation, rather than actual flight distances. To illustrate that point, Barger cited an example of a carrier flying direct from New York to Tucson. Yet another carrier technically flying between those two points could have a flightplan that included a flight from Islip to Baltimore, with the second leg including a flight between BWI and Los Angeles. The final portion of that itinerary includes a Los Angeles-Tucson flight.

    Barger explained that the N.Y.-Tucson direct flight had a 2,136-mile distance, while the distance of the multi-stop flight was 26% longer at 2,689 miles, plus three more takeoffs and landings. In essence the multi-stop carrier is paying the same fee as JetBlue, but is placing more of a burden on the ATC system.

    “The FAA and ATA both acknowledge that takeoffs and landings, along with time in the system are the most accurate drivers of ATC costs, yet the ATA’s formula disregards these cost drivers and penalizes JetBlue’s low-cost business model that efficiently avoids hub stops and relies primarily on nonstop, point-to-point service,” Barger said.

    A JetBlue spokeswoman noted that the rationale for using pure origin-and-destination mileage is for simplicity and ease of administration, but she noted that while, “it is ‘easy,’ it’s also wrong. This provision does not produce revenues equal to the use of the system, one of the ATA’s most fervently cited guiding principles.”

    JetBlue also takes issue with ATA characterizing the 250-mile exemption as a way to reduce the burden on smaller communities. The carrier argues ATA’s plan exempts more than 25% of all domestic flights, including all the shuttle flights from New York City to Boston and Washington. Those flights alone, JetBlue said, produce more than 100 flights per day in each direction. Barger pointed to similar examples of Miami-Orlando, Dallas-Houston and Los Angeles-Las Vegas, which “despite the burden they place on the busiest air traffic control centers in the nation, would also be exempt from paying the distance-based fee under the ATA’s proposal.”

    While JetBlue supports a genuine small-community ATC fee exemption, “this disingenuous plan mocks the importance of small community air service,” Barger said. JetBlue did propose alternative solutions to its problems with ATA’s proposal, but they weren’t taken, the carrier’s spokeswoman explained. She noted the carrier had done everything possible “not to take a singular stand.”

    ATA had no comment on the letters JetBlue sent to members of Congress. The current FAA reauthorization expires Sept. 30.

    Date: 2007-09-04