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Landing fees hiked at LAX, Ontario

July 29, 2008|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles airport commissioners Monday raised landing fees at LAX and Ontario International Airport to offset potential revenue losses due to one of the worst economic downturns in the history of the airline industry.

The Board of Airport Commissioners unanimously voted to increase the landing fee for commercial passenger planes at Los Angeles International Airport from $3.35 per 1,000 pounds of landed weight to $3.85.

At Ontario, the landing fee for passenger planes was increased from $2.43 per 1,000 pounds to $2.70.

Airport officials say the fees are retroactive to July 1.

At LAX, the increase means that a fully loaded Boeing 747-400, for example, will pay almost $2,200 in landing fees, up from $1,909.

"We have increasing operating expenses like any other organization," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that also manages airports in Palmdale and Van Nuys. "At the same time, we expect to have reduced landed weight due to reduced airline activity here."

Airline projections indicate that flights will decline by almost 17% at LAX in November while the number of available seats will drop by slightly more than 11%.

At Ontario airport, the number of flights is expected to plunge by almost 37% while the number of available seats is projected to fall by more than 27%. The numbers are expected to worsen slightly in December.

"Construction and fuel costs are increasing, and the airlines face their greatest economic challenge in decades." said Frank Clark, executive director of LAXTEC Corp., which represents international airlines at LAX.

"These increases are not out of proportion compared to other airports," Clark said. "But it is hard to see when we are paying $140 for a barrel of crude oil."

An airport analysis shows that the declines at LAX are largely due to contractions in service by seven major domestic airlines, including Delta, United and American.

The study also shows that LAX will be hit substantially harder by the downturn than other comparable airports in the nation, such as Miami International, John F. Kennedy in New York and San Francisco International.

Though LAX is a gateway to the United States for foreign travelers, airport officials said, LAX is being disproportionately hurt because it is not a hub or headquarters for major airlines.

Jack Keady, an aviation consultant based in Playa del Rey, said the airlines would probably pass the cost of the increased landing fees to their customers in the form of higher fares.

But, he said, the hike in ticket prices probably won't affect demand very much.

"Any airport facing declining flights will be facing the same problem [as LAX] unless they have a large cash reserve," Keady said.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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