Air Navigation Costs for Business Aviation – Part 2: Calculating and Paying Fees
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled “Air Navigation Costs for Business Aviation – Part 1: Key Considerations.”
Air navigation fees (“nav fees”) are almost universally applicable when using another country’s airspace. As these charges vary, and can be high in some cases, it’s best to obtain nav fee estimates in advance. By varying the route of flight, you may be able to cut down on total nav fee charges. This can be especially important for charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators bidding for charter trips – in order to limit costs and avoid surprise charges after the fact.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Calculating of nav fees
Certain countries, including Cuba, have standard rates of nav fees based on aircraft size. Japan calculates nav fees based on the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of the aircraft. Other countries have particular formulas – from simple systems based on wingspan and distance flown to more complex formulas that take into account peak operating periods of the day or year. In some cases nav fees may be higher, depending upon the time of day you’re transiting the airspace.
2. Billing and payment of nav fees
In most cases, nav fees are billed separately from landing and overflight permits. Nav fees are paid in several different ways. You may receive an invoice from the responsible entity, or you may be required to pay nav fees upon landing. If you’re required to pay upon landing this must be done prior to your departure. In the case of Eurocontrol, NavCanada and Shanwick you’ll be sent an invoice after the fact. These invoices may cover nav fees for a period of time or just a single flight. Other countries mandate that you self-report nav fees. In Mexico, for example, SENEAM requires operators to calculate nav fees based on wingspan and distance, using a predetermined distance chart. These fees must be paid to SENEAM, via a Mexican bank in local currency, within seven days of a flight through Mexican airspace in order to avoid penalties.
3. Paying nav fees
How nav fees are paid, and who these fees are paid to differ country to country. Eurocontrol, for example, collects nav fees for the entire European region, while CENAMER Air Traffic Control Center (ACC) collects nav fees due for use of Central American airspace. Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), an air traffic control agency based in Dakar, manages 16.1 million square km of airspace covering six Flight Information Regions (FIRs) and collects all nav fees for this region. The various nav fee collection entities allow different methods of payment – including credit cards, checks, and wire transfers – or offer online websites where payments can be made. But, some countries, including Mexico and Venezuela, require direct payment of nav fees in local currency via direct bank transfers.
4. Delinquent fees
Be aware that if you have outstanding nav fees owing you may be subject to penalties and/or may not be permitted to enter the airspace. In some cases, as with SENEAM, you will not be notified of delinquent nav fees but may be turned away and be required to reroute around Mexican airspace. This sort of scenario is also an issue with Venezuela. In some cases outstanding nav fees are also subject to interest and penalties. There are cases where operators purchase pre-owned aircraft with nav fees outstanding. In most cases new operators are responsible for all outstanding or pending nav fees. It’s important, therefore, to verify any outstanding fees prior to purchasing an aircraft. We’ve seen this issue come up with Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela – where aircraft have been denied entry due to outstanding nav fees owed from previous operators. Even if outstanding fees amount to only a few dollars this may still cause permit denials. In other cases countries may allow you to enter their airspace. But, the moment you land they’ll hold your aircraft until all outstanding fees have been settled. As payment of such fees may involve several hours, and up to two-three days, this has the potential to incur significant operational delays.
5. Cancellation costs
If a trip is cancelled prior to flight plans being filed nav fees are generally not applicable or charged. However, if you cancel a trip or change routing close to day or operation, or after flight plans are filed, you may be charged nav fees. In this case you’ll need to communicate with the appropriate entity to receive credit for these charges. Recommended practice is always to promptly cancel any unneeded flight plans.
It’s worthwhile to estimate nav fees prior to day of operation and to research if there are practical ways to save on fees by varying route of flight. Avoiding transits through certain airspaces, when this is viable, may significantly reduce overall nav fee costs for longer trips.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance calculating the costs for your next trip, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.