Massachusetts Officials Will Fight DOT Ruling Against Higher Landing Fees
BOSTON (AP) _ Logan International Airport’s operators haven’t ended their fight after grudgingly complying with a federal order to halt hefty fees that were designed to dissuade small craft from landing at the crowded airfield.
The new landing fee system had been watched closely by the aviation industry nationwide as a possible precedent for dealing with congestion at major airports. Federal officials rank Logan among the country’s 10 most congested airports.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation ruled the fee structure was unreasonable, discriminatory and in violation of federal law.
Deputy Transportation Secretary Mimi Weyforth Dawson signed an order Thursday that gave the Massachusetts Port Authority seven days to rescind its fee structure or lose eligibility for $10.2 million in federal aviation improvement grants for this fiscal year.
In response, Port Authority officials voted Tuesday to temporarily suspend the increased landing fees beginning today, but to file a request with the U.S. Court of Appeals here seeking a review of the matter.
″We are simply recognizing that an aircraft carrying hundreds and hundreds of people should not have to wait in line while a small craft carrying maybe one or two people lands,″ said Theresa McAlpine, a spokeswoman for the state agency.
Bob Marx, a spokesman for the federal agency, said it would have no comment on the Port Authority vote.
Small aircraft lobbyists said they would continue their vigorous opposition to the plan, which they said cost them an average of 500 percent more in fees.
″At this point the whole case has been ... groundbreaking. We feel that the Department of Transportation’s decision is final and binding and certainly very clear,″ said Patricia Weil, a spokesman for the national Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
The Program for Airport Capacity Efficiency, which went into effect July 1, was intended to reduce congestion and delays by charging fees so high they would discourage users of small craft from flying in and out of Logan.
Under the new fee structure, all planes were assessed an $88 flat fee and 47 cents per 1,000 pounds. The old system charged $1.31 per 1,000 pounds or $25, whichever was greater.
The new fee for a Boeing 747, for example, dropped to $450 from $680, while a Cessna 402 seating 10 passengers was charged $106 versus $25, McAlpine said.
Organizations representing small aircraft pilots reacted by filing complaints in court and with the federal Department of Transportation.