United Airlines officials announced Wednesday, April 11th, that the airline is adding a $10 surcharge for all passengers originating out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The surcharge, which takes effect immediately, is added in an effort to offset a $10 million rent increase imposed by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the city agency that operates LAX, United officials said.

ìPassing along this surcharge to our customers is not our preferred action, but the recent sharp increase in costs to operate at LAX has left United with no other option,î said Kevin Knight, Unitedís senior vice president of planning. ìWe have a great interest in LAX developing into a world-class airport, supported by a long-term modernization plan, but we have no interest in paying higher fees without greater benefit for our customers.î

In December, Los Angeles World Airports unilaterally raised the rent for all LAX airlines, with the result that United, the largest airline at LAX, will pay an additional $10 million annually.

United Airlines officials said they believe this increase in rent was ìin clear violationî of Unitedís long-term lease agreement with Los Angeles World Airports. United has filed a lawsuit against LAWA, as have several other airlines.

In a statement released April 11th, Los Angeles World Airports officials said United Airlinesí $10 increase in ticket prices for Los Angeles passengers ìwildly exceeds the airlineís full and fair share of the costs to maintain and operate its terminal facilities at LAX.î

Los Angeles World Airport officials alleged that United appears to be exploiting a justified increase in its maintenance and operations costs in order to dramatically increase profits on Los An- geles passengers.

In 2006, United reported more than 4.8 million enplaned passengers at LAX and, assuming United experiences the same level of traffic this year, the airlineís $10 increase per passenger will generate more than $48 million in additional revenue, LAWA officials asserted.

But United claims the increase in ticket prices is ìnecessary to pay higher maintenance and operations costs totaling $10 million,î the LAWA statement said.

United and other airlines are responsible for the full costs of maintaining and operating LAX facilities under the terms of their existing leases, airport officials said. Los Angeles World Airports has the right to pass along increases in its costs of operating the terminals, which it does for the benefit of the airlines, airport officials said.

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