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News In Depth

American Airlines Accepts Four Revocable Flight Slots, Warns of Possible Litigation And Pursues Administrative Appeal That Could Confront Council With Protecting or Abandoning LB's 41 Flight Cap

We post AA and LB exchange of correspondence verbatim

(April 19, 2002) -- In a move that could escalate defense of LB's Airport ordinance into a City Council confrontation, American Airlines (AA) is pursuing an administrative appeal under LB's Municipal Code, a process in which the Council could be faced with protecting or abandoning their city's law limiting aircraft over 75,000 pounds to a noise budget based 41 flights per day.

While warning that "it appears that litigation may be necessary to effect our rights under federal law," AA notified LB Airport in an April 9 letter (posted below) that it is accepting four revocable flight slots (reserved by others but not currently flown and temporarily available). This is to give "the City an opportunity to reconsider" its position that no further permanent slots are available under LB's Airport ordinance, AA said.

AA is challenging a decision, conveyed by LB Airport Manager Chris Kunze in an April 1 letter (also posted below) that indicates other carriers are unwilling to relinquish their permanent slots now filling LB's limit of 41 flights. As such, AA's "request for four additional slots cannot be granted at this time." Airport Manager Kunze wrote.

Following an April 15 letter (posted below) from Airport Manager Kunze AA offering to expedite the process, AA responded in an April 18 letter (posted below) that "Although we have accepted your offer of temporary use of the slots, we have reserved our rights to contest the legality of the City's agreement with JetBlue and the locally imposed slot constraints." AA added that it wants to "have this hearing as soon as possible -- and certainly no later than fourteen to twenty-one days from April 9."

The exchange of correspondence was made available to by LB Airport on request and can be viewed in pdf form at:

Administrative appeal potentially leads to City Council

The administrative appeal process involves the following steps before a matter reaches the City Council.

Under LB Municipal Code 16.43, the first step is an informal administrative hearing where witnesses may be called, written statements submitted and other "relevant and persuasive" evidence considered but without formal rules of evidence, discovery, and formal trial procedures. Following the hearing, the Airport Manager prepares a record of the proceeding and issues a written, post-hearing decision within 10 days.

The Airport Manager's decision becomes final unless appealed to the City Manager within 15 days. The City Manager or a designee then gives at least 15 days' notice of a hearing on the appeal, held before a hearing officer designated by the City Manager (not from the same department as the Airport Manager, and must be at least a Bureau Manager) or in the alternative, the City Manager may appoint an administrative hearing board consisting of not less than three members of the City's administrative staff. The appeal is decided based on submissions to the Airport Manager, his summary of the evidence presented, and arguments presented to the City Manager or his designee. A written notice of the decision issues within 15 days of the hearing.

And this decision becomes final "unless appealed to the City Council within fifteen days after the mailing of notice thereof by the City Manager." Such appeals are conducted under Municipal Code 2.93, which ultimately brings the matter to the City Council.

All oral evidence and testimony are under oath or affirmation, although the hearing doesn't have to follow technical rules of evidence.

The Council can conduct the hearing itself, which is the usual procedure, or it can appoint a hearing officer to do so (usually reserved for detailed matters not of wide public concern).

If the Council conducts the hearing, it decides.

If the Council lets a hearing officer conduct the hearing, the Council still ultimately decides. The hearing officer renders a decision, files a report with the Council and the Council holds a hearing to review and consider the report. The Council can adopt the report, reject or modify the recommended decision, take additional evidence or refer the case to the hearing officer with instructions to consider additional evidence.

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