Airlines win appeal to cut passenger screening fees

Southwest Airlines Co., AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and 20 other U.S. carriers will see the fees they pay the government for screening passengers reduced after an appeals court ruled that a regulator overstepped its authority.

The court in Washington found Tuesday that although the fees were proper, the Transportation Security Administration erred when it included the cost of screening nonpassengers in implementing the Aviation and Transportation Security Act.

The 22 carriers appealed in January 2006, saying the fees, which amount to $98 million a year, were unfair and excessive. The appeals court upheld the TSA's decision to implement the Aviation Security Infrastructure fee, though it agreed with the carriers that the TSA was charging too much.

The security agency said in June 2007 that Dallas-based Southwest owed $54 million in back fees, the most of any company. Fort Worth-based American owed $40 million, followed by $32 million for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. US Airways Group Inc.'s tab was $18 million, and the amount owed by UAL Corp.'s United Airlines was $15 million.