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JFK AIRPORT PORT AUTHORITY AND SIMILAR QUASI-GOVERNMENT ENTITY FEES / JFK AIR CARRIER FEES – ARE THEY REASONABLE?

By Carl Soller
Soller Law Intl

 

As a business resident at JFK Airport for 40 years and with clients nationwide, I have seen and discussed many a controversial issue regarding the reasonableness of the fees assessed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (“Port Authority”), particularly on air carrier gross revenues and fees assessed and charged by air carriers or their container station agents on consignees and importers of cargo.  Interestingly, the air carriers as well as the importers/consignees have registered similar complaints:  “the fees charged have been instituted without proper discussions and are either unreasonable or discriminatory.”

The U.S. Statutes at Title 49 discuss the authority of both air carriers and airports to assess fees and charges as well as provide the mechanism for air carriers to issue complaints against the Port Authority; and importers, or others employing air transportation, to file complaints against air carriers.  Years ago, the Department of Transportation in Order No. 2005-6-11 decided June 14, 2005, heard a complaint filed by 13 airlines against the Port Authority “challenging increased fees charged at Newark Liberty International Airport.”  It was alleged that the Port Authority did not engage in meaningful consultations prior to assessing a number of different fee increases, and that the increases were discriminatory.  The determination made by the Administrative Law Judge, after a hearing, was that certain refunds to the airlines were inappropriate, but that the Port Authority fees were not unreasonable with regards to the issues raised.

Frequently, there are complaints asserted by airlines and other users of JFK Airport and elsewhere that the percentage fees assessed are excessive and unduly burdensome on the conduct of business at that Airport.  These issues have been raised by one or more air carriers and other users of JFK Airport, frequently falling on either deaf or unhearing ears.  This is not to pass judgment on the reasonableness of those fees, but it is suggested that the management of the Port Authority should review the impact of the fees being charged and collected on those that regularly use JFK Airport and similar facilities, and whether these fees keep others away from JFK Airport.  Many of these complaints raise the issue of the fees at JFK Airport being substantially greater than those at other competing airports.  It has been said that at JFK airlines are losing market share of air cargo entering and leaving the United States, although volume continues to increase.  It is only reasonable for our legislators and Port Authority administrators to review the fee structure, and make a determination as to whether a change in that structure might have a positive impact in attracting new and additional business to those who are or would be using the airport, if the Port Authority were more user-friendly.

In the same vein, those same air carriers that say the fees and rates of the Port Authority have been implemented without proper dialogue and are unreasonably high, seem to have, according to importers, implemented similar unreasonable fee amounts, particularly in those instances where the air carriers, or their container station agents, are assessing storage fees for cargo after “free time” has expired.  Similar to the airlines’ complaints, brokers and importers have been heard to register their objections to the unilateral implementation of storage fees without the necessary dialogue with the users of the services of air carriers and their related container stations.  As with complaints against the Port Authority, the U.S. Code at Title 49 authorizes complaints to be lodged against air carriers if it is claimed that prices or fees are unreasonable as related “to international air transportation.”  Perhaps those air carriers and container stations who have unilaterally increased the storage fees and are subject to complaints should review those practices to determine whether air traffic in the cargo sector is being diverted to other ports because of those increased costs.

JFK Airport has long been recognized as the premier airport in the United States for fast and efficient recovery of imported cargo.  The processing by Customs and other government agencies is without peer.  It would be unfortunate if the volume of cargo to and from that airport as well as other equally costly facilities diminishes because of the controversial fee amounts.

Carl R. Soller, Customs, International Cargo and Regulatory Compliance Attorney is counsel to companies engaged in all elements of the import/export supply chain and a recognized expert in his practice areas.  He and his firm concentrate their International, Regulatory and Cargo Practice in all business and regulatory matters on a nationwide basis.  He offers advice on supply chain security and its related Government Regulations to the Cargo Community as well as advice and a vast range of assistance to importers and exporters of all kinds of consumer goods.  He can be reached at (516) 812-6650 or (212) 643-6650 or

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