Global insight

‘Price-fix’ airlines snitched on rival carriers

US$1.2bn alarm bell for air cargo price-fixers

A US class-action lawsuit alleging grand-scale air cargo price-fixing collusion, which has so far led to more than US$1.2bn in voluntary settlements, sends a strong message to the industry, a top specialist competition law firm has admitted to

Global litigation company Hausfeld, which has been handling the 10-year-old antitrust action brought by air cargo customers against a string of airlines, says the proceedings sends a chilling warning to all businesses – including those operating in the air cargo industry – that private enforcement of anti-trust laws is important because “those who violate the law will be held accountable”, writes Thelma Etim.

In the New York case, 28 major world airlines have now chosen to settle out of court. All of the carriers in the case have denied any wrongdoing.

The complex air cargo litigation is one of Hausfeld’s largest and longest-running price-fixing cases.

Others include a vitamin C class-action resulting in a judgment of $162m following a trial and, in another, $2bn of settlements reached in a foreign exchange benchmark rates antitrust argument.

“The air cargo class-action should send a message to all businesses, including those operating in the air cargo industry, that private enforcement of the anti-trust laws is important, that those who violate the law will be held accountable, and that victims of anti-competitive conduct have a means to recover for the damages they suffer,” a statement from Hausfeld warns.

Below is a top-10 list of the biggest settlement payments in the New York air cargo price-fixing litigation to-date:

Defendant Settlement  (US$)
Korean Air 115m
Polar Air Cargo/Atlas AirWorldwide Holdings 100m 
EVA Air 99m
Singapore Airlines 92.49m
China Airlines 90m
British Airways 89.5m
Air France/KLM/Martinair 87m
Lufthansa 85m
Lan/ABSA 66m
Cathay Pacific 65m

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