Judge rules that LAX rate hike is unreasonable

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A federal judge has determined that the new and increased charges being incurred by airlines operating out of Terminals 1 and 3 of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are “unreasonable” and “unjustly discriminate”, in a move that could cost the airport’s operator millions in reimbursements.

In an exhaustive “recommended decision” served yesterday, US DOT administrative law judge Richard Goodwin found that the formulas and methods used by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to justify the new fees are inappropriate and that carriers should be reimbursed.

LAWA’s obligation “is prospectively and retroactively” and it “should pay interest on the sums due”, says Goodwin.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters is expected to issue a final decision on the matter by June 15.

Domestic airline occupants of Terminal 1 and 3, including AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, ATA Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and US Airways, have applauded the judges ruling.

In a joint statement, they say: “We are gratified by today’s recommended decision in favor of the airlines serving Terminals 1 and 3 at LAX. 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 facility.

“It is unfortunate that LAWA once again compelled the airlines to initiate expensive and time-consuming legal proceedings before the DOT in order to protect our customers, employees and shareholders from LAWA’s egregious actions.”