Final Decision Expected June 15
US Administrative Law Judge Richard
C. Goodwin found Tuesday increased terminal fees Los Angeles World
Airports imposed on low-cost and international carriers at LAX
earlier this year are "unreasonable and discriminatory."
During the course of a seven-week investigation, Goodwin held a
15-day hearing in Los Angeles, where numerous airport and airline
officials told their sides of the story. The judge reviewed 11,000
pages of documents and 500 exhibits, according to the Los Angeles
The agency's "entire accounting system is suspect and cannot be
relied upon to provide accurate and timely information," Goodwin
wrote. This ruling isn't binding, but its findings are so
compelling that many participants expects Transportation Department
officials to take it to heart when issuing a final decision June
AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, ATA Airlines, Frontier
Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and US Airways
Group issued a joint statement on the ruling.
"We are gratified by today's recommended decision in favor of
the airlines serving Terminals 1 and 3 at LAX," the statement
reads. "The Administrative Law Judge's ruling upholds clear and
longstanding principles of law that are designed to protect
consumers and air carriers from excessive, unreasonable, and
discriminatory payments for the use of an essential public
"It is unfortunate that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) once
again compelled the airlines to initiate expensive and
time-consuming legal proceedings before the US Department of
Transportation (DOT) in order to protect our customers, employees
and shareholders from LAWA's egregious actions."
The airlines filed a joint complaint in February with the
Department of Transportation in opposition to new terminal charges
at LAX that dramatically increased their costs.
If upheld, the ruling could
potentially cost LAWA millions of dollars, and question how the
agency will pay for added post 9/11 security and needed
improvements at LAX.
The terminal fee increase was levied by the city Airport
Commission and nearly quadrupled rent and maintenance costs for
domestic carriers in LAX Terminals 1 and 3. Officials argued the
raise was necessary because the airport is subsidizing the
Carriers complained the higher costs put them at a competitive
disadvantage, because airlines with long-term leases would still
pay lower rent.