United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare) has filed a Part 16 complaint against Newark airport operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), accusing it of charging "exorbitant and unreasonable" fees at the airport and diverting USD2billion in airport revenue to other unrelated projects.

"...the Port Authority operates (Newark) for its own benefit, contrary to the interests of the traveling public and the aeronautical users of the airport, imposing excessive, unreasonable and discriminatory charges to generate huge surpluses that are siphoned off to non-aeronautical operations," United claimed in its complaint to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

United alleges that fees charged by the PANYNJ at Newark - USD11.77 per 1,000 pounds of weight - are the highest in the nation, and are 75% higher than at the PANYNJ's other interest, New York JFK, where the charge is only USD5.06 per 1,000 pounds of weight. This, United asserts, amounts to discrimination against it as it puts the carrier at a "significant competitive disadvantage."

United also alleges that the PANYNJ uses "hidden markups" to force United and other carriers to subsidize what it said was the exorbitant salaries and overtime of police who have been cross-trained as airport firefighters. The airport recently unveiled a revised firefighting force that will cost USD25million more to maintain annually while security expenses will also rise by USD37million.

The fees charged by the Port Authority violate the Airport and Airway Improvement Act, the Anti-Head Tax Act, the Airline Deregulation Act and FAA policy, United claimed, in that they are to be "fair and reasonable" and be used for airport-related costs. While the authority, by law, can use a portion of airport revenue for general debt obligations or similar requirements, the carrier claims the PANYNJ has diverted USD2billion since 2004 to non-airport related projects including spending USD181million on the Pulaski Skyway, a four-lane bridge-causeway in the northeastern part of New Jersey, and USD60million on the Wittpenn Bridge this year.

"The Port Authority has violated this restriction repeatedly by using airport revenues to pay for highways, bridges, parks, hospitals and other facilities that it does not own or operate," it said.

United has requested the FAA to conduct an audit of the operator's airport fee structure and related finances to ascertain how the fees are being used.

In its defence, the PANYNJ says the fee structure in place at Newark was agreed to by Continental Airlines (CO, Houston Intc'l) over a decade ago. Then the airport's dominant operator, Continental was merged into United in 2012.

"United is paying fees to the Port Authority pursuant to a contract that the airline accepted,” it said.