Tips on contract fuel use and maximizing opportunities
Look for cost savings along with on-time delivery and high levels of service when it comes to overseas fuel uplifts.
Shell services a Bombardier Global Express at PER (Perth WA, Australia). Always confirm any existing fueler restrictions prior to travel. At some airports, and certain FBO ramps overseas, only specific fuel providers may be used.
There are monopoly fueling situations to consider at various airports worldwide. If you land your GA aircraft at HKG (Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong) you can only obtain fuel from the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre and prices will be high.
"HKG is a tightly controlled market, no competing fuelers are permitted on the FBO ramp and contract fuel discounts are minimal," says Jeppesen World Fuel Services Dir Commercial Sales Darren Seex. "While there's no incentive to give GA operators big fuel discounts the service, facilities and reliability at this location are second to none."
Cox points out that while there may be ways to avoid certain ramp restrictions it may not be worth it. "Some airports—not HKG—may allow operators to taxi or be towed to another location on the airfield for fueling. You may get a bigger fuel discount by doing this but is it worth the hassle—especially if you've just landed after a 12-hr flight?"
Strategic fuel uplift planning can be one of your most powerful cost savings options, particularly when operating to such high tax regions as Europe, says Seex. "Fuel duties and taxes can double or triple base cost of fuel for private operators and there are often limited option in exempting or reclaiming these costs," he says. "Planning fuel stops, to avoid high tax areas, and strategic tankering of fuel can translate into big costs savings in certain parts of the world."
Fuel prices in Germany can be as high as $12.00 per gallon but may be cheaper than auto fuel—at about $2.45 per gallon—at SNN (Shannon, Ireland).
Be prepared to present correct documentation in Europe when requesting exemption of mineral oil tax (MOT) or value added tax (VAT). At many locations charter operators are able to sidestep taxes at the pump by providing an AOC and confirming that "AOC show" is noted on the fuel ticket. At other locations—particularly Germany, Italy and Switzerland—authorities are particularly vigilant in confirming that operators qualify for tax exemption.
If you say you're operating charter and show an AOC, but you've filed your flightplan as private or do not have a charter landing permit, watch out! You may lose your tax exemption and be fined or detained for making a false declaration.
"There are lots of hoops to jump through in Europe to exempt duty and taxes at the pump," points out Seex. "At some locations—Germany and Switzerland are examples—the pilot must go to the customs office to have a form stamped to present to the fueler in order to ensure fuel tax exemption. Your flightplan must be filed correctly to correspond to tax exemptions you're claiming—[otherwise] you may be red flagged."
Fuel releases and tickets
Nothing can slow you down quicker than having a fuel issue at an overseas airport. Be sure your contract fuel provider or ISP coordinates your fuel release or authorization with both the ground handler and local fueler.
While it's generally recommended to carry a fuel release for all international locations some accept aviation fuel cards on sight while others may require a separate authorization as well. Be careful when signing any fuel uplift ticket to be sure it indicates correct volume uplifted, tail number, where you arrived from and where you are departing to as well as status of your flight in terms of fuel duty or tax exemption. If there is an error or tax discrepancy on your fuel ticker talk with your fueler, hander and ISP and let them work it out.
"If it's a charter operation we always indicate AOC number on the fuel release," says Standefer. "Crew, however, should always have a copy of their AOC available. It's best to present your AOC before fueling begins and to write 'AOC shown' on the fuel ticket before signing."
Cox advises crew to check fuel tickets and not sign if there appears to be an error. "Once a fuel ticket has been signed it can be difficult to go back and make changes. If you need to challenge a fuel or fuel ticket issue later you'll be in a stronger position if you're working with a contract fuel provider with negotiating power and resources to represent you as well as possible."
When landing at more remote locations—particularly in China, India or central Africa—it's best to plan fuel uplifts at least a week in advance, says Krupla. "At some remote locations you'll need to provide 48 hrs, and even 72 hrs, advance notification of fuel requirements."
Although fuel credit issues are rare in today's environment there are times when special arrangements need to be made. "We know of one South American location where it's necessary to wire transfer funds to the handler so that they can pay cash to the fueler for requested fuel uplifts," adds Krupla. "Fuel credit can usually be arranged for virtually any international location with prearrangement."
Seex advises clients to confirm that credit and fuel supply is confirmed and in place for your uplift. "While supplies can be erratic at some locations a contract fuel release [helps ensure] that fuel has been allocated for your aircraft," he says.
"There is no contract fuel company with the single best price at all locations and some contract fuel providers are stronger in certain regions," says Colt Intl VP Kevin Wilkerson. "Take advantage of this by using multiple aviation fuel cards and getting quotes pretrip. While there are fewer advance notice requirements today, when setting up contract fuel worldwide, there are still locations—such as Mexico—where you'll get a lower price with more advance notice."
There are more contract fuel options and choices than ever today and obtaining and comparing online contract fuel quotes is straightforward. Looking to the future, ongoing automation in technology and online options will provide even more timely and accurate fuel quotes and payment options along with enhanced opportunities to exempt MOT and VAT in situations where operators qualify.
"Select contract fuel providers carefully as there are vast differences in service levels between providers," cautions Wilkerson. Adds Standefer, "If a contract fuel price appears too low be cautious. Check that all applicable delivery fees and taxes have been included and try to get a fueler referral from your ground handler. Sometimes you may face a much longer wait for that cheaper contract fuel!"
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.
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