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U.S. Supreme Court

Evansville Airport v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 405 U.S. 707 (1972)

Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District

v. Delta Airlines, Inc.

No. 70-99

Argued February 23-24, 1972

Decided April 19, 1972*

405 U.S. 707


In No. 70-99, respondents challenged a "use and service charge" of $1 "for each passenger enplaning any commercial aircraft operated from the Dress Memorial Airport" in Evansville, Indiana. The funds were to be used for the improvement and maintenance of the airport. The Indiana Supreme Court, upholding the lower court, held the charge to be an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce in violation of Art. I, § 8, of the Constitution. In No. 70-212, a New Hampshire statute levied a service charge of $1 for each passenger enplaning a schedule commercial airliner weighing 12,500 pounds or more, and a 50� charge for each passenger enplaning a scheduled aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds. Fifty percent of the funds were allocated to the State's aeronautical fund, with the balance going to the municipalities or airport authorities owning the public landing areas. The New Hampshire Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of the statute.

Held: The charges imposed in these cases are constitutional. Pp. 405 U. S. 711-722.

(a) A charge designed to make the user of state-provided facilities pay a reasonable fee for their construction and maintenance may constitutionally be imposed on interstate and intrastate users alike. @ 73 U. S. 711-717.

(b) The charges, applicable to both interstate and intrastate flights, do not discriminate against interstate commerce and travel. P. 405 U. S. 717.

(c) Although not all users of the airport facilities are subject to the fees, and there are distinctions among different classes of passengers and aircraft, the charges reflect a fair, albeit imperfect,

Page 405 U. S. 708

approximation of the use of the facilities by those for whose benefit they are imposed, and the exemptions are not wholly unreasonable. Pp. 405 U. S. 717-719.

(d) The airlines have not shown the charges to be excessive in relation to the costs incurred by the taxing authorities in constructing and maintaining airports with public funds. New Hampshire's decision to reimburse local expenditures through unrestricted revenues is not a matter of concern to the airlines. Pp. 405 U. S. 719-720.

(e) The charges do not conflict with any federal policies furthering uniform national regulation of air transportation. Pp. 405 U. S. 720-721.

(f) There is no suggestion here that the charges do not advance the constitutionally permissible objective of having interstate commerce bear a fair share of airport costs. P. 405 U. S. 722.

No. 70-99, ___ Ind. ___, 265 N.E.2d 27, reversed; No. 70-212, 111 N.H. 5, 273 A.2d 676, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 405 U. S. 722. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

Page 405 U. S. 709

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