Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District v. Delta Airlines, Inc.

PETITIONER: Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District
RESPONDENT: Delta Airlines, Inc.
LOCATION: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 70-99
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Indiana

CITATION: 405 US 707 (1972)
ARGUED: Feb 23, 1972 / Feb 24, 1972
DECIDED: Apr 19, 1972

Howard P. Trockman - for Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority Dist. and others
John K. Mallory, Jr. - for Delta Airlines, Inc., Northeast Airlines, Inc., and others
Marans. W. Michael Dunn -
W. Michael Dunn - for New Hampshire Aeronautics Comm. and others

Facts of the case


Media for Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District v. Delta Airlines, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1972 in Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District v. Delta Airlines, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 23, 1972 in Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District v. Delta Airlines, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in 70-99, Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority against Delta Airlines.

Mr. Trockman, just so that you and Mr. Mallory can plan your time, we will probably complete your argument and perhaps if it's feasible, open some phase of your friend's argument.

Howard P. Trockman:

Yes, Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a review of a decision of the Indiana Supreme Court rendered on December 23, 1970, declaring the ordinance involved in this proceeding, unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The petitioner, Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District, is a regional airport.

By that I mean, it lies in the Southwestern tip of Indiana and is utilized by not only the residents of Vanderburgh County Indiana, where it is located, but by many people residing outside of the area.

The district was created by a state statute.

It has both legislative and taxing powers and it was created specifically to operate Dress Regional Airport.

As I stated, it is a primary airport which serves Illinois, Kentucky as well Southern Indiana residents.

Approximately, 300,000 people move through this airport per year using commercial aircraft.

40% of these users, as shown by the stipulated facts in this cause of Dress Airport reside outside the city

.The yearly operating deficits to which I will elude later in this argument, are supported up until now only by tax levies on Vanderburgh county property owners.

The stipulated facts which I refer to --

Harry A. Blackmun:

When you make that statement, don't you charge landing fees?

Howard P. Trockman:

Yes, Your Honor, there are landing fees charged by contract to each of the commercial airlines serving the airport.

Harry A. Blackmun:

And you have rental space within the airport?

Howard P. Trockman:

We have rental space within the airport which is used on a per square foot basis by each of the airlines.

During the course of this appeal, Your Honor and I have pointed this out in the reply brief, the charges which we are attempting to establish by this use and service charge ordinance were accepted from the contract of renewal of all of these lease agreements and therefore the question has been left open pending the outcome of this review.

William H. Rehnquist:

I take it that the deficit you referred is the failure of the kind of charges that justice Blackmun has referred to to cover the operating expenses of the airport?

Howard P. Trockman:


Harry A. Blackmun:

Isn't it a disease that reflects all airports?

Howard P. Trockman:

I don't think it reflects all airports, Mr. Justice Blackmun.

I feel that some of the larger airports enjoy a very handsome revenue, but it is the type of airport that comes from Midwestern part of the United States such as the small or medium size hub-airports which we represent with a space and perplexed with this financial problem and this is what caused, I might add, the passage of the use and service charge ordinance which I will outline to you.

Warren E. Burger:

Is there anything to prevent from raising their landing fees except that it might drive the airlines out?

Howard P. Trockman:

There is nothing to prevent the raising of the landing fees, Mr. Chief Justice, but we do know that if the landing fees will raise that this type of raise and the levy would be passed along to the passenger in some way.

Either the air fares would be increased, or the passengers would be paying for this charge in some manner.

It's obvious to me and I think it probably should be to the Court that whatever charges are paid by the airlines are passed along to the ultimate consumer and this of course, is the purpose of the use and service charge ordinance in this particular case.

It is designed to be passed along to the consumer on a user basis, not on the basis of a property tax that just effects Vanderburgh county residents many of whom never use the airport.

But when we have some 120,000 people residing outside the perimeter of Vanderburgh county using this airport and do not support it directly through any property tax, we feel that a much more equitable and broader base of support should be made and that's the formulation of the user tax.