Department of Transportation slaps LAX for financial irregularities; Read the audit

The key is policing

Is Los Angeles International Airport overpaying for police? File photo.

Los Angeles International Airport may be violating federal law by spending some of its revenues on costs not vital to airport operations, a federal agency charged in an audit released this week.

I’ve got a full story on the problems found in the audit on our main website. But it’s pretty much inside baseball stuff. If you follow airports closely, you know that the FAA bans airports from using their revenues to pay for any costs not entirely related to airport operations.The idea is to ensure that airports don’t accept FAA grants for things like new runways and then go ahead and use their revenues to fund city projects — stuff not connected to the airport.

LAX got in trouble in part because it was paying the LAPD for work that was not connected with the airport. For example, LAX was funding a piece of the LAPD’s “Police Forgery Unit.” But it wasn’t clear to auditors why this was the case.

“LAPD charged LAWA $968,74222 for services by its Forgery Unit,” the auditors wrote. “This amount represents 20 percent of the unit’s personnel salary. However, LAPD did not provide adequate documentation, such as accounting records or tracking of airport-related and non-airport related time, to show that this charge was actually expended for airport-related work.”

Another problem? LAX paid $216,162 to fund a Lieutenant in the LAPD’s Gang and Narcotics Division. But during the period the Lieutenant was being paid, it wasn’t clear how the work was tied to the airport.

“The lieutenant stated that he conducted both airport and non-airport work, and LAPD charged the airport one-third of the lieutenant’s salary to the airport,” the audit stated. “However, according to division representatives, the basis of this rate is unknown, and the time spent on airport-related work is not tracked. As a result, the documentation does not support that the lieutenant spent one-third of his time for the benefit of the airport.

Remember, Los Angeles World Airports has its own police force, separate from the LAPD. So LAX is not only supporting its own police, but also paying for LAPD help. Some of this help is needed — the airport police is relatively small — but it’s not clear how much. The DOT doesn’t want LAX paying for any police it doesn’t need.

Here’s the full audit. Please let me know in the comments section if you see anything that is particularly interesting?

Lax Audit

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Read the LAX Shooting after action report

Dear Readers:

I’m currently on vacation. But Los Angeles International Airport today released its public after action report from the Nov. 1 shooting at Terminal 3. There will be plenty of media reports today detailing the findings, but I figured some of you might want to read the report itself. So it is here.

LAWA T3 After Action Report March 18 2014

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Confirmed: United will fly between Los Angeles and Melbourne later this year

Reports are circulating that United will fly between Los Angeles and Melbourne. Photo: United.

Reports are circulating that United will fly between Los Angeles and Melbourne. Photo: United.

United Airlines is expected to announce a new flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia that will start in October, according to Airchive, an aviation blog. (We have since confirmed it — see below.)

United will fly the route six times per week using a Boeing 787-9 aircraft starting Oct 26, Airchive reported. The news is being warmly greeted on Flyertalk, the message board I profiled in a feature story earlier this week. Posters on the website, who are probably airline employees, are talking like it’s a done deal, though they note the international flight is subject to government approval. (Flyertalk members get this stuff wrong occasionally, but not often.)

I reached out late Thursday to United for a comment, but I have not heard back.

Qantas already files between Los Angeles and Melbourne using an Airbus A380. United for now offers one-stop service to Melbourne. The plane stops in Sydney.

UPDATE: 10 p.m. The flight is now available for purchase on Also, the reputable website says the flights start on November 3.  It starts Oct. 26, as we originally stated.


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LAX is expected to settle fines assessed by TSA

I came across an unusual entry in the agenda this week for the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners closed session meeting scheduled for Wednesday. It appears the Transportation Security Administration has assessed fines on Los Angeles International Airport.

Here’s what it says:

“Transportation Security Administration Settlement of five (5) Orders assessing Civil Penalties to Los Angeles World Airports for violations at Los Angeles International Airport. [2013LAX0162; 2013LAX0170; 2013LAX0216; 2013LAX0256; 2013LAX0017].”

I’ve reached out to the TSA about what these fines might be for, but I am not optimistic I’ll receive an answer. Usually I’m told this is “security sensitive” data. The meeting in which they will be discussed in closed to the public.

Do any of my readers know why these fines were asessed? If you know and want to say anonymous, you may email me at

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Read the settlement: American Airlines and LAX reach agreement over airport charges

American LAX Settlement

American Airlines and the city of Los Angeles apparently got creative in settling their lawsuit over fees the carrier was assessed but did not pay at Los Angeles International Airport, according to a settlement agreement filed in federal court.

As we reported last month, Los Angeles claimed that American had underpaid its rental invoices by $21,556,915.70 since 2011. The money was charged for something called “maintenance and operations,” or M&O, which are fees for services that the airport says are not covered by rental payments.

Every other airline at LAX has been paying these bills, the city noted in court filings. So it always seemed likely that American would pay them too. The question was how the issue would be settled.

I took at a look at the settlement, and below is what I learned. (Of course, I’m no lawyer, so if you see something I have missed, please let me know in the comments section.)

  • American is paying Los Angeles $8 million right away. But the city will also reimburse American for a bunch of improvements the carrier made at LAX in recent years.
  • LAX will credit American with $2 million in exchange for “apron pavement improvements” the carrier paid for between 2010 and 2012.
  • The city will reimburse American almost $4 million for costs related to employee parking. It seems that, at the request of the airport, American switched to an inconvenient parking lot for its employees. The employees must now be bused to American’s operation, and that bus is expensive.
  • American claims it has spent a considerable sum on “design plans” for a building that will connect its Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. American can get up to $375,000 for this project.
  • American expanded its security checkpoints at Terminal 4 in 2005 and 2011. The city will reimburse the airline for many of these costs.
  • For  those unpaid M&O charges from 2011 through 2013, American will pay Los Angeles $14 million.
  • Effective Jan. 1, 2014, American will pay LAX $42,000 per month for M&O charges. These will pay for: “fire, life and safety systems, heating, conditioning, ventilation systems,” documents show.
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