Freight carrier DHL Express sues city over possible San Antonio airport lockdown


International shipping service provider DHL Express has operated at San Antonio International Airport for more than 30 years, but is facing a potential foreclosure due to an alleged breach of lease.

Airport officials argue that DHL breached the lease because the company no longer performs express air cargo operations at 1037 Wetmore Road.

DHL this week sued the city of San Antonio for an injunction that would allow the company to continue operating at the airport without interference.

The threat of a lockdown would cause “substantial disruption” to DHL’s international distribution chain – resulting in delayed delivery of medicines, machinery, documents, laboratory samples and time and temperature sensitive shipments to customers, the company says in its lawsuit. .

“Any closure of a single DHL location like SAT (San Antonio International Airport), even for one day, will result in a loss of revenue that is difficult, if not impossible, to calculate,” DHL adds.

In a statement, airport manager Jesus Saenz Jr. said the airport was not an appropriate place to run a ground distribution center without an aviation component.

San Antonio Airport Manager Jesus Saenz, Jr. speaks at an event last year at San Antonio International. He notified DHL Express in 2020 that he was in default of his airport lease. DHL is now suing the city for the alleged defect.

William Luther /Staff File Photo

“We have an obligation to maximize aeronautical revenue to support airport operations and growth,” Saenz said. “DHL can run a ground distribution warehouse anywhere in the city. They do not perform any air freight operations on our site. Other tenants are more than ready to use the airfield for air cargo operations.

The dispute erupted almost a year and a half ago when the parties reached an agreement that prevented any lockouts without adequate notice, DHL says in its complaint. He adds that he was attempting to resolve the alleged defects when he filed suit.

Saenz informed the company in an August 2020 letter that it was in default on its lease because it did not operate any flights at the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that premises leased by DHL be used only for “aviation activities,” Saenz said in the letter, a copy of which is attached to the lawsuit.

A DHL official responded that it was not contrary to the intended use and asked Saenz to rescind the defect notice.

Saenz declined in an October 2020 letter.

“Because DHL does not operate flights at SAT, but only receives, sorts and distributes freight delivered overland, it no longer ‘conducts express air cargo operations’ there,” said Saenz said.

The airport must conduct “aviation activities” because it receives federal funding under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, he added. The program provides grants to public bodies for the planning and development of airports.

Saenz then informed DHL that he had five days to return the premises.

A lawyer representing DHL responded to Saenz, claiming that its operations at the airport constituted express air cargo operations.

“While DHL Express currently has no flights to or from San Antonio Airport, its actual aircraft container loading and unloading business brought to the facility as part of its air express operations , as well as picking up, sorting, scanning and delivering shipments to leased premises are integral to its operation as an air express company,” the attorney said. He added that the activities meet the FAA’s definition of aviation activities.

Loading, unloading and sorting goods are among the activities permitted by DHL’s lease, the lawsuit says.

“Notably, there is no allegation that DHL Express is engaged in any prohibited activity or
activities” specified in the lease, he adds.

DHL leases more than 42,000 square feet at the airport, including building and ramp space, paying about $185,000 a year in rent. The lease expires in 2025.

Saenz stated in its October 2020 letter that the airport was prepared to offer DHL an alternative site outside of the airfield’s area of ​​operations for the company to conduct its operations. Any relocation would require “significant investment” to reconfigure its freight handling equipment, DHL says in its complaint.

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