Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent

PETITIONER: Northwest Airlines, Inc., et al.
RESPONDENT: County Of Kent, Michigan, et al.
LOCATION: Colorado Springs, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 92-97
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 510 US 355 (1994)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1993
DECIDED: Jan 24, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Edward C. DuMont - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondents
William F. Hunting, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondents
Walter A. Smith, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 29, 1993 in Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 24, 1994 in Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinions of the Court in four cases to announce.

The first is No. 92-97, Northwest Airlines versus the County of Kent, Michigan.

This case involves a challenge to user fees charged by the Kent County that is Grand Rapids, Michigan Airport to commercial airlines.

The airlines contend that the fees are unreasonable and discriminatory under a Federal statute called the Anti-Head Tax Act and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

They say that the airport should have allocated airfield cost to the concessions at the airport as well as to the flight operations and that the airport's failure to charge the general aviation a hundred percent of its allocated cost was wrong.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the airlines were entitled to bring a private action under the Act but rejected the airlines challenge to the fees in principal part.

We assumed for the purposes that this case that the Act permits the airlines to commence this civil action and we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

In the absence of guidance from the Secretary of Transportation with ministers of the Federal aviation laws, we apply reasonable standards used in prior cases.

Under these standards and in an opinion authored by Justice Ginsburg, we conclude that the fees should be left undisturbed.

Justice Thomas has filed a dissenting opinion.