After the implementation of new Customs Landing Fees on July 1, 2013 there were a flurry of complaints from airline companies and private pilots, and while the clamour has waned the negative publicity continues to come, 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 the Marsh Harbour International Airport. According to the FBO’s 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,” Mr. Sawyer 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.
Mr. 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.”
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 Mr. Sawyer pointed out, the pilot in July came in and filled out a form with his personal 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,” he 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.”
Mr. Sawyer is hopeful that private and corporate planes and public airlines will continue to come, despite the new Customs tariffs, but he is also hopeful that the government will revisit their position on these fees.