An agreement last week that calls for major airlines to pay higher landing fees at Loss Angeles International Airport could help move Standard & Poor's Corp. a step closer toward resolving the airport's CreditWatch listing, a rating agency official said.

In September, Standard & Poor's placed $317 million of Los Angeles Department of Airports revenue bonds on CreditWatch with negative implications, citing concern over the refusal of various airlines to pay the landing fee increase.

Last week, however, the airlines agreed to pay the higher fees -- which were roughly tripled in July -- after the city won a court ruling that would have allowed it to prevent the disgruntled carriers from landing at the airport.

"It's definitely a positive step" for the city to have the authority to collect the higher fees, said Peter Bianchini, a director of Standard & Poor's, on Friday.

But the airlines' court challange over the fee increase is still pending, and Bianchini said, "We'd like to see what happens with that first."

U.S. Department of Transportation officials intervened to help negotiate the agreement that prompted payment of the higher fees. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena also plans to issu a statement in coming days that clarifies how the department will handle such disputes in the future

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