We Pay, They Don’t

Yesterday we alighted in San Francisco to drop off a few passengers. Despite the fact that we were only on the ground for about twenty minutes and used no services, the FBO (fixed base operator) there still charged us $1,100 for the privilege.

Contrast that with the U.S. government, which took over the office of a Boulder City FBO for four days, ran wiring, installed phone lines, confiscated his entire operation for a full day in support of a visit by President Obama, and then balked at the $50/day discounted rate that the owner asked the federal government to pay.

First they refused to pay anything, later relenting and adding that they’d never use his facility again.

“The one client I have today wants it for free,” Fahnespock. “It’s really baffling how they can comprehend not being charged for this.”

His FBO has no ramp or tiedown fees for the day, so there was no charge for Marine One, but he regularly charges clients for use of his facilities. Normally, Fahnespock said, he would charge a customer $500 total for a similar setup to what he proposed at $200 for the government.

Fahnespock received a plaque for his business’ hospitality, and he said the officials and enlisted servicemen based at his office were “very cordial and nice, very professional.” But, he still had a beef with the government: “I probably wouldn’t have as much heartburn” if general aviation weren’t facing user fees.

The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2000 that Marine One cost approximately $56,518 per hour to operate. That’s $70,834 per hour in today’s dollars. Yet the White House cannot abide providing a small business owner even a fraction of the normal revenue he’d receive for allowing his facility to be used by a customer.

We pay, they don’t. Your government at work.

4 comments

  1. Yeah, it certainly appears unfair.
    The problem is, ‘if they pay’ too, then your qoute becomes, “We pay, we pay.”
    However, what rankles me is the government’s unilateral ability to ‘take over’ this poor guy’s FBO. He should have had the right to tell the government to take a hike.

    1. If you’re referring to user fees, I agree with you. I was simply referring to the FBO-specific charges. If you or I were to visit Boulder City and use that FBO’s facilities and services, we’d pay the going price. Apparently the White House feels it should be exempt, which is especially ridiculous when you consider that their presence leaves a huge footprint and literally shuts down that business to any other customer.

      I think he could have told the feds to take a hike if he’d known in advance that they wanted everything for free. Most people would probably be honored to have the President using their facility… but I doubt they’d ever expect to receive any grief over the miniscule, legitimate (and discounted) costs they charge.

  2. If I was the President’s chief of staff or on his PR staff I would have a person employed full-time to go around taking care of the footprint issues like this. Someone in Obama’s staff understands the political consequences of being on the wrong side of this story, and realizes that the few hundred bucks it would take to satisfy is money very well spent. Indeed, if I were CoS my guy/gal would actually pay with a special check, with an additional thank-you letter and a HUGE smile. I guess whoever is doing PR for the President was in the same class as the clown who was doing PR for BP during the oil spill a while back. Amateurs!

    1. Exactly. Not only is it wrong, but from the P.R. standpoint it looks terrible for the White House to breeze into town with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded helicopters, jets, limousines, support equipment & weaponry and then walk all over a local taxpayer who is probably already having a tough time keeping his business solvent.

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