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New airport fees continue to cause problems

Family Island News
Courtesy of The Abaconian

Published: Oct 16, 2013

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ABACO – After the implementation of new customs landing fees on July 1, 2013, there was a flurry of complaints from airline companies and private pilots.  While the uproar has waned frustration continues, and in some cases against the wrong people.

Such is the case at Cherokee Aviation’s FBO (fixed base of operations), a private terminal located at Marsh Harbour International Airport.  According to FBO Manager Claude Sawyer, there have been customers posting severe criticisms of his operation due to the new fees.

“We have had one customer accuse us of outright theft and he still doesn’t accept the explanation of the fees,” he said.

The issue comes from the new Customs Management Regulations, 2013, section 10, item 2 which states: “The customs authority may permit the master of a private aircraft not carrying cargo, and operated for pleasure and recreation only by a pilot who is not flying for reward or remuneration or for business purposes, to make the inward report on form no. C7A.”

Sawyer explained this means that an aircraft owner may fly himself and his family and land at a Bahamian airport and only be charged a $50 customs fee.

“The fee is determined and charged by customs, not Cherokee Aviation or any FBO,” he said.

If the pilot, however, is paid any fee whatsoever, even if a friend hitching a ride gives him gas money, the pilot is required to fill out the regular C7 form and will pay $75 in, and $75 dollars out – $100 more than a private pilot.  Also, in the case of one complaint, Sawyer pointed out the pilot in July came in and filled out a form with his name on the entry.  However, on a subsequent trip in August the form was filed under a corporate name.

“When customs sees a business or corporate name on the form they are going to assume it’s a business trip and charge the higher fees,” Sawyer said.

“We encourage anyone who has a complaint to speak with us and we’ll do our best to sort it out, but the customs fees are beyond our control.”

Sawyer is hopeful that private and corporate planes and public airlines will continue to come to the island despite the new customs tariffs.  But, he is also hopeful that the government will revisit its position on the fees.

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