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Air passengers to get payout over price fixing

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic agree deal

Plane flying

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are to pay around £100 million to passengers following a US lawsuit brought on behalf of UK and American travellers affected by fuel surcharge price-fixing.

But while lawyers involved could end up many millions of pounds richer, passengers in the UK might get as little as £1 per ticket in compensation.

BA said today that BA and Virgin had agreed in principle to resolve the class action litigation pending in a California court.

It is thought that the settlement, which still has to be finally approved, will cost BA about £70 million and Virgin about £34 million. The BA total includes about £45.5 million for UK passengers affected

Fuel surcharge

BA said that about 11 million passengers – including seven million in the UK – were affected by the settlement.

It added that the settlement was worth between £1 and £11.50 per ticket purchased for the affected long-haul flights by UK passengers.

BA has already been fined £121.5 million by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) last year and a further 300 million US dollars (about £150 million) by the US Department of Justice after it was found guilty of conspiring to fix fuel surcharges.

Virgin escaped financial punishment last year after the group came forward to expose the collusion.

‘Fair and reasonable’

BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said: ‘As we have previously said, we absolutely condemn any anti-competitive activity by anybody.

‘This settlement, which BA and Virgin Atlantic have jointly agreed with the lawyers for the plaintiffs, is fair and reasonable. BA can now move on and do what we do best – delivering excellent customer service.’

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said today: ‘We deeply regret our involvement in this matter and believe that the provisional settlement reached draws a line under this episode.’

BA and Virgin admitted colluding over fuel surcharges on long-haul flights between August 2004 and January 2006.

Oil prices

The charges, which came in response to rising oil prices, increased from £5 to £60 per ticket for a typical BA or Virgin long-haul return flight over that period.

Details of how UK passengers and businesses will be able to register to claim the refund will be available from 7pm today on this refund website or by telephoning 0800 043 0343.

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