Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Air Transport Association of America, Inc. v. United States Dep't of Transportation

July 13, 2010

AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, INC., PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, RESPONDENTS AIRPORTS COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL - NORTH AMERICA, INTERVENOR



On Petition for Review of an Order of the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ginsburg, Circuit Judge

Argued October 15, 2009

Before: GINSBURG and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges, and WILLIAMS, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge GINSBURG.

I. Background.......................................................................... 3

A. The Problem of Congestion....................................... 3

1. Excess Demand.................................................... 4

2. Possible Solutions................................................ 5

B. Regulation of Landing Fees....................................... 6

1. Statutory Requirements....................................... 7

2. The 2008 Amendments........................................ 8

II. Analysis............................................................................ 12

A. Unreasonable and Discriminatory Fees................... 13

1. The Standard of Review.................................... 13

2. Reasonableness.................................................. 15

3. Unjust Discrimination........................................ 16

B. Preemption............................................................... 18

C. Guidance to Airports............................................... 22

D. Change of Policy..................................................... 24

III. Conclusion...................................................................... 27

In order to reduce congestion at major airports the Department of Transportation in 2008 amended its 1996 Policy Regarding Airport Rates and Charges. The Amendments allow an airport to charge aircraft higher landing fees at peak times, a practice known as congestion pricing. The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), on behalf of U.S. scheduled airlines, petitions for review of the Amendments, arguing they (1) allow airports to charge unreasonable and discriminatory fees, (2) allow state and local airport authorities to charge fees that are preempted by federal law, (3) provide inadequate guidance to airports on how the DOT will evaluate the reasonableness of the fees, and (4) constitute an unexplained reversal of prior policy. Airports Council International (ACI), which represents governmental bodies that own and operate major airports in the U.S., including 36 of the 37 airports the DOT deems "currently congested," has intervened in support of the DOT. We deny the petition for review.

I. Background

As the primary manager of the Nation's air transportation system, the DOT determines whether the fees an airport charges its users comply with the various federal statutes requiring that the fees be reasonable. The Secretary of Transportation is required by statute to publish regulations "establishing... the standards or guidelines" he will use to evaluate the reasonableness of an airport's fees. 49 U.S.C. § 47129(b)(2). This case involves a challenge to one set of regulations promulgated under that statute.

A. The Problem of Congestion

In the 12 years between the promulgation of the 1996 Policy and of the 2008 Amendments, the number of landings by airlines in the United States increased more than 25%, to 10.3 million from 8.2 million per year. See Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, Table 1-34 (April 2010).*fn1 This increase in traffic has led to more frequent and longer delays; in 2007, for instance, "flight arrivals were delayed by a total of 4.3 million hours." U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, Report, Your Flight Has Been Delayed Again: Flight Delays Cost Passengers, Airlines, and the U.S. Economy Billions 1 (May 22, 2008).

The causes for delay range from inclement weather to mechanical problems; this case involves delays caused by excess demand for airport takeoff and landing capacity.

1. Excess Demand

Excess demand arises when demand for a good or service at the prevailing price exceeds the supply, which results in would-be buyers having to queue. In the air transportation system, the buyers are airlines, the service is allowing an aircraft to land at a particular airport, and the price is the landing fee the airport charges the airline for landing. The delays in landing are manifestations of there being a queue. In an ordinary market, supply and price adjust to eliminate excess demand, but this is no ordinary market.

Airports cannot readily increase the supply of landing slots because building more runways takes years and at some airports is not feasible at all. See Policy Regarding Airport Rates and Charges, 73 Fed. Reg. 3310, 3312/3 (proposed Jan. 17, 2008). Nor may airports freely increase the price as demand increases; the amount an airport may charge as a landing fee is constrained by the oversight of the DOT and by several federal statutory restrictions.

Adding to the difficulty of managing congestion, the volume of air traffic varies significantly both throughout the day and from one airport to another. Not all airports suffer from significant congestion, even at the most desirable times (or "rush hours"). Addressing this variation in the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.