(CN) – American Airlines is not obligated to pay uncollected customer fees to the U.S. government, the Federal Circuit court ruled. The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., held that the government did not have the right to charge the airline the “user fees” it cannot collect from passengers.
The lawsuit centers on the Immigration Inspection User Fee and the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection User Fee. A small percentage of the fees go unpaid because foreign countries sometimes do not charge the fees, and the airline cannot refuse the passengers who do not pay them.
Judge Newman agreed with American’s argument that excise taxes, like these fees, do not impose secondary liability.
“Similarly, a statute imposing a new security fee after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, calls for the air carrier to collect the fee but expressly states that if the fee is not collected from the passenger, the amount of the fee shall be paid by the carrier,” the judge wrote.
Newman agreed with American’s argument that the language regarding the Sept. 11 fee is different from the statutory language of the use taxes.