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Mayor’s airport pick sues over firing in PA

The British company that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani wants to hire to manage LaGuardia and JFK, two of the airports now run by the Port Authority, has gone to court to challenge its firing as operator of the Harrisburg, Pa., airport.

A hearing in the case has been scheduled for July 30 in Cumberland County Court near Harrisburg.

BAA was ousted July 2 by the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, which voided a $5 million, 10-year contract with the British firm to run the airport.

Alfred Testa, aviation director of the Susquehanna Authority, said the agency found that BAA failed to live up to claims of what it would do for Harrisburg’s airport, which included providing what it termed world-class expertise, bringing in more flights and luring low-fare airlines. BAA also did not obtain proper workers’ compensation insurance for its airport operation, he said.

Under BAA’s management, the number of passengers at Harrisburg actually decreased, the Susquehanna Authority said.

The hearing, set for late this month, is on a request by BAA for reinstatement as airport operator pending the trial on its lawsuit later this year.

The company contends in court documents that its standing would be harmed at a time it is negotiating for new contracts to manage other airports.

The Giuliani administration has been negotiating with BAA for more than a year in the hope the company will take over LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport when the Port Authority’s contract with the city expires in 2015.

Giuliani has long criticized the Port Authority as incompetent and unaccountable in the way it manages the two airports and has demanded the agency withdraw as operator before its contract expires.

But the bi-state agency made up of representatives from both New York and New Jersey, says it has no intention of abandoning its role as overseer of the two New York City airports. It also manages Newark International Airport.

By mutual agreement, the Port Authority and BAA recently and prematurely ended the British firm’s 15-year contract to operate food concessions and retail outlets at Newark.

BAA also was directed to halt construction of a new runway at Stansted Airport outside London after neighborhood activists expressed concern the runway, intended for emergency use only, would become a new active runway, thus adding to airport traffic.

In addition to Harrisburg, the company operates the Indianapolis airport, Heathrow Airport in London and others in the United Kingdom.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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