A Tale of Two Airports: Why DOT Found Unjust Discrimination Against Airlines at LAX But Not at Newark

In this article (Paragraph No. 20,431) two airports face claims of unjust discrimination in charges imposed on airlines, the last two years have been the “best of times and the worst of times.” In 2005, thirteen air carriers at Newark Liberty International Airport filed a complaint wit the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under the “rocket docket” procedures set forth in 49 U.S.C. Sec 47129. The airlines alleged that new terminal charges of International Terminal B unjustly discriminated against them in favor of other airlines at Newark. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned by DOT found no unjust discrimination and both the DOT and U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed. By contrast, in 2007, seven airlines filed a “rocket docket” complaint with DOT alleging that the new Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) terminal rents at Terminals 1 and 3 unjustly discriminated against them in favor of competing carriers at Terminals 2 and 4-8. This time, the same ALJ from the Newark case held that the fees did in fact unjustly discriminate against the airlines, and the DOT affirmed. The airport has appealed to the D.C. Circuit). In this article the author examines these dramatically different outcomes and focuses on six factors that were present in the LAX case but in the Newark matter: (1) a finding by DOT that the complaining carriers at LAX engaged in similar use of the airport’s terminal facilities; (2) a level of discrimination at LAX that was potentially massive, both in terms of amount (up to a billion dollars) and duration (up to 19 years; (3) LAX’s inability to classify the complaining airless as “non-tenants” or “non-signatories:” (4) the DOT’s clear pronouncement that “an airport proprietor may not impose a more burdensome fee structure on a new classification of airline user without demonstrating at least a reasonable correlation between the new fees and the airline classification;” (5) the inability of LAX to show “any obligation undertaken by the airport” that “merit the additional fee imposition on the “disfavored carriers” or, on the other hand, commensurate obligations undertaken by” the favored carriers; and (6) the admission by LAX in pleadings filed in other court proceedings that it was engaging in unjust discrimination with regard to the complaining airlines.

  • Corporate Authors:

    International Aviation Law Institute

    DePaul University College of Law, 25 E Jackson Boulevard
    Chicago, IL  United States  60604
  • Authors:
    • Goldberg, Roy
  • Publication Date: 2008


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Edition: Transfer Binder 2: 2004-2008
  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: pp 10131-10150
  • Monograph Title: Issues in Aviation Law and Policy

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01141842
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 7 2009 6:10PM