By Janet Urquhart
ASPEN — A 5 percent increase in landing fees charged at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, levied on commercial carriers and private aircraft that aren’t based locally, will go to county commissioners for consideration Wednesday.
Final action by commissioners is scheduled Nov. 28.
The increase, which would take effect in 2013, comes on the heels of a 10 percent fee hike this year. The fees are charged per 1,000 pounds of aircraft weight, so the proposed $4.77 fee for a commercial carrier next year would, for example, equate to about $320 per landing for the jet SkyWest operates on behalf of United Express (up from approximately $304).
On the general aviation side, privately owned aircraft that weigh 12,500 pounds or less and are based year-round at the local airport are not charged a landing fee.
General aviation aircraft from outside the area would see the landing fee rise from $5.35 to $5.62 per 1,000 pounds, according to the proposal.
Federal Aviation Administration regulations limit landing fees to an amount that covers operating and capital costs associated with the runway and taxiway areas, including snowplowing, maintenance and upgrades. Last year, the county OK’d a 10 percent increase in fees for 2012, citing increased costs associated with a newly lengthened runway.
This year, improvements include a new taxiway connector and a new de-icing area.
“When we do these kinds of improvements, the users have seen the upside and have gone along with (a fee hike) because they’ve seen the value of the improvements,” said Jim Elwood, aviation director at the local airport.
However, a price comparison provided to commissioners indicates the landing fees at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport are generally higher than at other Western Slope airports. For example, while Aspen’s would increase to $4.77 per 1,000 pounds for commercial carriers, Hayden (near Steamboat Springs) charges $4.28, Eagle/Vail charges $3.22, and Durango charges $1.25. At Gunnison, on the other hand, the fee is $5.04, according to the comparison. At Nantucket, Mass., the landing fee is $13.50.
A 27 percent increase would be necessary in 2013 to fully cover operating costs, but airport officials felt that was too large of an increase given the 10 percent hike in landing fees implemented this year, the memo notes.
Also proposed in 2013 is a 2.5 percent increase in terminal rental fees.