About 40 people, including pilots who use Chicago Executive Airport, came to Wednesday's airport board meeting armed with signs and a life-size gas pump cutout to lobby for an airport-owned self-service fuel station.
The fuel station, they say, would mean cheaper fuel for small leisure planes.
Airport board members voted 5-0, with Neal Katz abstaining, to not move forward with the pilots' request.
The board said the self-service station wouldn't offer the minimum standard of services the airport requires of those selling fuel. And with such a station, the airport would be competing against its own tenants for business, airport Communications Director Rob Mark said.
Madeleine Monaco, president of the Chicago Executive Pilots' Association, argued that the since the minimum standards are set by the airport, the board should be able to change them and allow for self-service fuel.
"Sure they could, but why would they do that," Mark said. "They would be going against their own standards."
The airport, owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights, currently offers full-service fuel options through three FBOs (fixed-base operating companies) -- Signature Flight Support, Hawthorne Global Aviation Services and Atlantic. The companies provide additional services, including lounges, showers and fitness centers, driving up the fuel cost for pilots of smaller planes who likely don't use the amenities, pilots said.
Higher fuel costs often drive pilots of small planes to fuel up at other airports, such as ones in Lake in the Hills or Wisconsin, where fuel is cheaper.
One of the airport's FBOs, Signature Flight Support, announced Wednesday it would offer a fuel discount to members of the Chicago Executive Airport Pilots Association during a nine-month trial period that would begin Jan. 1. It is unclear what the outcome of a successful trial period would be.
Signature would not comment on nor confirm details of the offer.
Discounts would put CEA fuel costs in between the costs at Schaumburg Airport and DuPage Airport, Monaco said. The savings could appeal to members of the pilots association, but not offering the discount to nonmembers and piston pilots from out of town is problematic, she said.
While a one-page white paper on the proposed deal touts increased membership for the pilots association as a benefit of the fuel discount, Monaco says the group isn't a business, and isn't necessarily trying to expand.
She says while the pilots association will continue listening to what the FBO has to say, "we're not going to stop addressing issues that affect general aviation piston aircraft at the airport."