British Airways, Korean Air fined US$300 million in price-fixing case




SHOTLIST
Washington DC
1. British Airways attorneys walk towards court
2. Various of attorneys for Korean Air arriving, wide of court
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Steve Williams, attorney representing plaintiffs in civil case:
"There is no doubt that there was a price fix. There is no doubt there was collusion that British (Airways) has been involved in and it has been established that Virgin (Atlantic) was and that has, as the Justice Department has said, caused consumers and businesses in the US to have paid more than they should have paid."
(Q) And are you confident that you can get restitution?
"We are absolutely confident. In fact the court today deferred imposing restitutionary penalties on British (Airways) in light of the pending civil cases that we are handling."
FILE: Unknown Date, Unknown Location
4. Various of British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft being towed to gate
5. British Airways security area
Washington DC
6. Pan of court house
7. Tracking shot of Korean Air representatives leaving court
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Steve Williams, attorney representing plaintiffs in civil case:
"I wouldn't say 300 (m) million dollars US is getting off lightly. I would comment that as I said, no restitution, no money going back to the people who actually paid this has taken place yet, but that is our job to recover for those people."
9. Close-up court sign
STORYLINE
Two major international airlines were fined 300 (m) million US dollars (euro221 (m) million) apiece on Thursday after admitting they conspired to fix prices on international flights.
British Airways PLC, Britain's largest airline and Korean Air Co., South Korea's national carrier, pleaded guilty to antitrust conspiracy charges.
Both saw their potential fines reduced because they had cooperated with US Justice Department investigators.
US District Judge John D. Bates said the case "involved considerable commerce and reflected long-term and widespread conduct involving major airlines and players."
The airlines admitted that they colluded with rivals over cargo rates and fuel surcharges which were added to fares in response to rising oil prices.
That meant higher costs for international shippers and passengers.
Lawyers representing potentially thousands of passengers were in court on Thursday.
Steve Williams, whose firm represents customers in an ongoing civil case, said there was no doubt there had been a price fix.
It had, he said, "caused consumers and businesses in the US to have paid more than they should have paid."
Korean Air's fines could have been twice as high and British Airways could have faced fines closer to 900 (m) million US dollars (euro663 (m) million), but the Justice Department credited the company with cooperating in the case.
Judge Bates agreed.
Williams said he was confident of claiming restitution for his clients.
"In fact the court today deferred imposing restitutionary penalties on British (Airways) in light of the pending civil cases that we are handling," he said.
"I wouldn't say 300 (m) million dollars US is getting off lightly. I would comment that as I said, no restitution, no money going back to the people who actually paid this has taken place yet, but that is our job to recover for those people."
Earlier this month, authorities in London announced a 246 (m) million US dollar (euro181.2 (m) million) fine for British Airways in a parallel trans-Atlantic investigation. Both inquiries are ongoing.
As part of its plea deal, British Airways admitted that between mid-2004 and early 2006, it colluded with Virgin Atlantic over the surcharges, which were added to fares in response to rising oil prices.
The fines were the second-largest antitrust sanction by the |US Justice Department since 1995.

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