Boston Logan International is the first US airport to threaten sanctions against its airline tenants for shortfalls in performance .

The Guaranteed Passenger Standards programme, which went into effect on 26 February, could, however, face a legal challenge should the Massachusetts Port Authority ("Massport"), which oversees Boston Logan International, carry out its threat against airlines.

Increasingly, airport operators are taking a stand against airline delays and customer complaints over poor airline services.

Earlier this year, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey pressured the US Federal Aviation Administration to impose a slot lottery at New York's LaGuardia Airport in an effort to relieve major service delays. San Francisco International has also threatened to slash flights in a bid to cut delays.

Massport has initiated a precedent-setting initiative to penalise airlines for poor performance. Yet to be resolved is whether the airports have the legal rights to carry out such sanctions.

Logan International has set criteria for airline performance. The monitoring is ongoing and Massport will levy penalties against airlines that fail to meet the service standards for baggage delivery, ticket issuing and flight information updates. "At Logan our passengers will have rights and Massport will defend those rights," says Mark Robinson, Massport's chairman.

If the problems are not resolved after several warnings, Massport will impose penalties against offending carriers, including the loss of gates, waiting areas, ticket counters and administrative offices. "We will provide lots of notifications. We hope and expect not to assess any penalties," says Massport, adding that its lawyers blessed the programme. "We're comfortable with the programme as it stands," says Massport, which says that no airline to date has launched a legal challenge.

The US Department of Transportation has yet to take a position on the matter. It does not plan to become involved unless a complaint is filed.

Affected airlines say the action is neither adequate nor legal. They say it fails to address airport-related headaches such as road and parking congestion: "It is not lawful because it is pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act, which prohibits a state or local agency such as Massport from exceeding its proprietary powers as an airport operator by attempting to regulate airline prices, routes or services," the airlines contend in a letter.

Source: Flight International