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L.A. seeks $21.5 million from American Airlines over airport costs

Only a month after emerging from bankruptcy, American Airlines faces a claim from the city of Los Angeles for $21.5 million in fees charged to operate out of Los Angeles International Airport.

The city asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in New York for permission to file a lawsuit to collect maintenance and operating fees from American, alleging that the airline has been underpaying LAX since Dec. 31, 2010.

American Airlines said it would not comment on pending litigation.

At the heart of the dispute is a method that LAX adopted in 2006 for calculating maintenance and operating fees charged to airlines that operate out of LAX. The new method raised the cost of operating out of LAX by adding charges for security and maintenance of private roads around the airport.

Nearly every airline at the airport challenged the 2006 fee structure, including American, according to airport officials.

In 2012, the airport reached a long-term agreement with every airline except American on a new method for calculating maintenance and operating fees. American, however, has continued to pay LAX a lower fee, based on an old interim agreement, the city alleges.

American Airlines' parent company filed for bankruptcy Nov. 29, 2011. The city of Los Angeles claims in a motion filed last Thursday that American Airlines owes LAX $5.7 million from the period before the bankruptcy filing and $15.8 million for the period after the filing.

Airport officials said they filed a claim with the bankruptcy court in 2012 to collect part of the underpaid fees from American Airlines but have not yet received any of that money.

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