Two Americans have filed a price-fixing lawsuit against four major transatlantic air carriers saying they used fuel surcharges to wrongfully inflate prices.
The suit, filed in New York federal court late Friday, charges that British Airways Plc, Virgin Atlantic, AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines conspired to fix passenger ticket prices, partly with the use of fuel surcharges.
The two air travelers, Susan Saldana of Newton, Massachusetts, and Ian Reynell of Chicago, Illinois, claim that British Airways added at least six fuel surcharges since May 2004, conspiring with the other airlines to artificially inflate ticket prices.
The suit was filed days after Britain’s Office of Fair Trading said it visited British Airways’ offices on June 13 as part of a civil and criminal investigation into alleged price coordination and that its probe was “at an early stage.”
The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed last Thursday that it was investigating possible anti-competitive practices in airline passenger fares and cargo shipments, but it did not identify which airlines were under investigation.
American Airlines, United Airlines and Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic all said last week they were involved in the probe, but were not direct targets.
The plaintiffs are demanding reimbursement and damages against the airlines, and seeking class action status for their suit, which would include all travelers who bought transatlantic tickets with the airlines named in the suit over the last four years.
The four airlines are the only carriers allowed to fly direct between London’s Heathrow Airport and the United States under bilateral treaties.