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The True Cost of Aviation Fuel

by David Wyndham 1. August 2006 00:00
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We all are quite aware that fuel costs keep rising. GlobalAir has a nifty fuel price checker at https://www.globalair.com/airport/ . A quick check and a few things are apparent. 100LL is clearly more costly than Jet-A (Regional fuel pricing), and at a given airport, two FBO's can have very different fuel prices.

It would not be unusual to find a twenty, thirty or even forty cents per gallon difference. You might ask yourself why anyone would go to an FBO with the high fuel cost? Well, that's not the entire story.

Service counts for a lot. If you need a quick turn but it takes 30 minutes for the fuel truck to show up, then is saving twenty cents a gallon such a good deal?

Make sure you call ahead for the latest prices and make sure to ask about the other fees. Those ramps, hangars, crew rest rooms, courtesy cars and flight planning rooms all cost money. FBO's can be creative in finding ways to pay for them. Sell enough fuel, and those services can be offered "free." To do that with fuel sales, they must add a surcharge. Across the field, the other FBO may elect to do an al a carte pricing and charge for each individual service. Both have their advantages.

If you need the "full service" FBO, than paying the higher fuel price but being able to avail yourself of all the services may be a better deal than the budget fuel price plus paying for each additional service. Most FBO's will have a minimum gallon purchase that will get you the "free" services.

If you need a quick turn, then the lower fuel cost may be the better deal. Why pay for the extra services if you don't need them. Call ahead an ask if there is a ramp fee or passenger transfer fee or other charge in addition to the cost of fuel.

For each FBO, add the cost of the fuel with the cost of the additional fees to arrive at your total cost for the stop. You may be surprised that the lower fuel cost FBO isn't necessarily the better deal.

Lastly, most of us are aware of tankering. If you can get a discounted fuel price at home, tankering fuel is a way to save on the cost of fuel. However, the FBO isn't there as a charity, they are trying to provide a service and expect a fair price for that service. Even if you can make the round trip unrefueled, consider the "courtesy fuel" purchase.

Many operators who tanker fuel still purchase a nominal amount of fuel, typically the amount of their required IFR reserves. This gives the FBO revenues in recognition of their being available with their services.

How many of you do courtesy fuel purchases? Did you use to do it but at $5 a gallon, it's now harder to justify? Would you rather get the low cost fuel and pay individually for each service? Let me know.



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David Wyndham | Airports


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