The bulk of a $1.4-billion terminal project at Newark International Airport is done, but a dispute over related payments is heating up. Continental Airlines filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Newark against J.A. Jones Construction Group LLC on March 6, two days after the contractor resigned from its role as construction manager for the airline's Global Gateway project at Newark Airport. J.A. Jones had been the CM since 1999.
In a statement, Continental says it is "seeking the immediate return of...construction records, checks to trade contractors, documents and other data that J.A. Jones Construction removed." Continental claims that J.A. Jones "surreptitiously removed the documents, and is holding Continental's records hostage' in exchange for immediate payment of additional disputed invoices." The airline is also seeking damages for "wrongful termination and abandonment."
Steve Luquire, a spokesman for Charlotte-based J.A. Jones, says "the point at issue is several million dollars owed and unpaid to J.A. Jones for cost and fees incurred." Luquire says airline executives promised J.A. Jones executives to make an interim payment on Feb. 28 but did not do so. J.A. Jones gave written notice on March 4 to Continental that it would stop work pending payment. In its statement, Continental says it "plans to resolve the payment issues in dispute upon completion of an audit of J.A. Jones Construction's records." Both parties have since been put under a gag order.
AMEC Construction, Toronto, has been hired to take on the CM role. The centerpiece of the airline's $1.4-billion job, a 325,000-sq-ft concourse, opened in December. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owns Newark Airport, had no comment on the case. The agency is building $2.4 billion worth of new parking, cargo, maintenance and hangar facilities and expanded access roadways as its part of the Global Gateway program.
The lawsuit comes as Continental attempts to recover from the loss of revenue since Sept. 11. In its SEC statement, Continental indicated "a consolidated net loss of $95 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2001." While current cash flow "remains negative at approximately $2 million per day," the filing also indicated that Continental "currently anticipate[s] being profitable in March of 2002."