updated 4/11/2007 8:48:58 PM ET 2007-04-12T00:48:58

United Airlines said Wednesday it was adding a $10 surcharge for passengers departing Los Angeles International Airport to offset a $10 million-a-year hike in terminal maintenance and operations costs passed along by the city.

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The surcharge goes into effect immediately.

"Passing along this surcharge to our customers is not our preferred action, but the recent sharp increase in costs to operate at LAX has left United with no other option," United executive Kevin Knight said in a statement from the airline's Chicago headquarters.

Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that runs LAX and other Los Angeles-owned airports, raised fees in December.

"We have a great interest in LAX developing into a world-class airport, supported by a long-term modernization plan, but we have no interest in paying higher fees without greater benefit for our customers," Knight said.

United, which has joined several other airlines in a lawsuit contesting the cost hikes, believes the increase violates United's long-term lease agreement with Los Angeles World Airports.

The airport agency said the surcharge was unfair to passengers.

United, which flew more than 4.8 million passengers out of Los Angeles last year, would generate more than $10 million with the surcharge if the level of traffic is the same this year, the agency said.

"United appears to be exploiting a justified increase in its maintenance and operation costs in order to dramatically increase profits on Los Angeles passengers," the statement said.

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