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British Air, Virgin to settle price-fixing case

/ Source: The Associated Press

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have tentatively agreed to settle a U.S. price-fixing suit over fuel surcharges, British Airways said Friday.

British Airways did not confirm the size of the settlement, but the U.S. law firm that filed the class-action suit said the two airlines could pay more than $200 million to customers who flew between Aug. 11, 2004, and March 23, 2006.

The airlines were sued in California in which they were accused of colluding in setting fuel surcharges on long-haul flights.

Passengers who bought tickets in the United States or Britain for travel on long-haul routes between Aug. 11, 2004 and March 23, 2006, will be entitled to claim one-third of the fuel surcharge levied per long-haul ticket, BA said.

The law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll which brought the suit said the agreement would provide $59 million for American ticket purchasers and $145 million for buyers in Britain. It said the suit potentially affected 8 million ticket buyers.

BA said that would be worth between $1.50 and $20.50 per ticket bought in the United States.

The settlement is subject to court approval.

British Airways was previously fined more than $500 million by U.S. and British authorities for its role in the fuel-surcharge price-fixing case. Virgin was not fined because it came forward to expose the alleged collusion.

“This is the first time non-U.S. citizens have been rewarded on an equal footing to U.S. citizens in a case before the U.S. courts, making this a legal precedent and a significant milestone in both U.S. and U.K. legal history,” said Michael Hausfeld, senior partner at Cohen Milstein, based in Washington, D.C.

The law firm said it planned to set up a Web site, http://www.virginbapassengerrefund.com, to process claims.