In the 'Collapse' section of the Thomas Cook Wiki, it states that

At around midnight on 23 September, airports in the UK began to impound Thomas Cook aircraft upon arrival, citing "default in payment of airport charges"

Do all airports have authority to do this? If I refuse to pay a $15 landing fee in a Cessna, can they impound the aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ What country are you asking about? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Bianfable Thomas Cook is a UK airline so would be a good default. That said, question uses dollars, so anything is game. $\endgroup$
    – Notts90
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't get a good answer here you might try law.SE as well. There could be some general contract law issues that apply to an aircraft, car, boat etc. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 3:30

2 Answers 2


Yes, at least if the airport is city owned (or owned by a municipality). For example Philadelphia's airports are city owned and they have landing fees as well as default repercussions

1.05. Payments

Non-tenant Air Carriers and Operators not providing adequate surety or security in form and amount satisfactory to the Department of Commerce, to ensure payment of fees and charges, shall be required to pay all incurred fees and charges prior to aircraft departure.


  1. If any charges remain unpaid for a period of twenty (20) days after the due date,

    the City may:

    a. Bar operator from the Airport and the use thereof; and/or

    b. Deny operator the use of Airport facilities; and/or

    c. Commence such actions at law or in equity as are deemed in the best interests of the City.

I see no reason impound would not be covered under section C there. Privately owned airports are a different situation but I imagine they have some kind of legal recourse.


A private airport, should local legislation not permit impoundment, can simply deny the aircraft the services necessary for takeoff, such as ground handling, fuel or ATC -services.

In (the likely) case these services are provided by a (sub)contractor, the airport can simply forbid the contractor from providing these services. The company facing the impoundment propably has unpaid bills here and there, including the aforementioned service providers, so they are propably happy not to serve the grounded plane.

So even if the plane in question was not legally impounded, seized or confiscated, it won't be going anywhere.

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    $\begingroup$ That would probably be a breach of contract by the airport and challenged in court $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Diego Sánchez well the starting point of this situation, as the question stated was "default in payment of airport charges", so good luck with going to court with a case "I didn't pay for previous services so they declined to serve me" :) $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know. If you refuse to pay your water service charge in your home, your water provider is still legally obliged to provide you with running water. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Cloud utilities such as water and electricity are not comparable to airport services in question. Only exception I can think of would be a situation where the airport is the sole connection of, say, a remote island or such, to the outside world, and denying service would impose an immediate threat to the safety and health of the local community. How about if you don't pay your phone bill, bet you won't be making calls ;) $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 9:49

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