Airlines fined for price-fixing, $1.7 billion so far

airlines fined for price-fixing
U.S government prosecutors have fined 21 airlines $1.7 billion to date in a price-fixing scheme that has cost America’s flying public and cargo shippers millions in a case that dates back to 2000.

Rather than fix problems plaguing the airline industry a decade ago, executives at global carriers scrambled to find an easy way out and avoid financial ruin reports the Associated Press. Between 2000 and 2006 airlines artificially raised passenger and cargo fuel surcharges to make up for lost profits.

“As an example of the impact of the conspiracy, fuel surcharges imposed by some of the conspirators rose by as much as 1,000 percent during the conspiracy, far outpacing any percentage increases in fuel costs that existed during the same time period,” said former Associate Attorney General Kevin J. O’Connor.

They might have not been caught either had it not been for two airlines coming forward to turn in their conspirators. Admitting their “mistake” allowed Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic to take advantage of a Justice Department leniency program for helping in the investigation. Still, the two airlines were fined over £120 million after admitting to fixing prices on fuel surcharges.

From fines to prison time for airline executives, penalties vary among individual airlines.

Gadling has been following this story all along and in 2008 told of Qantas airline’s involvement . In the case involving Qantas, the price fixing scheme had a focus on their freight division.


It was the freight division of China Airlines too that earned the airline a $40 million fine in the price fixing conspiracy just last September.

Announcing four guilty pleas in June 2008, O’Connor told the Associated Press that the cases “conservatively, has affected billions of dollars of shipments. Estimates suggest that the harm to American consumers and businesses from this conspiracy is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Airlines fined for price-fixing include British Airways, Korean Air, and Air France-KLM but no major U.S. carriers as the case continues. So far, two former executives have been sentenced to six months in prison and two others were ordered to prison for eight months.

Ongoing charges are pending against 15 executives, nine of whom are considered fugitives.

Flickr photo by BriYYZ

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