A number of carriers that had not previously settled, are set to defend a multi-billion dollar class action in the US that they colluded to fix prices on international air freight services, after a New York court set a trial date for the claim to 8 January 2016.
Air New Zealand, Air China Cargo, Air India and Polar Air Cargo and its parent Atlas Air Worldwide, failed in an application to end the claim on Monday after a hearing in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn.
The claim was filed in 2006 on behalf of six freight forwarders and has been led by global litigation firm Hausfeld. The law firm has reached settlements worth almost US$1.04 billion with 27 airlines. The biggest settlement was $115 million with Korean Air. The plaintiffs estimate damages in against the remaining carriers to amount to nearly $2.66 billion, which could treble to as much as $7.98 billion under US antitrust laws.
The freight forwarders allege the airlines “conspired to develop and implement an industry-wide index for calculating fuel and security surcharges that were applied to thousands of routes flown worldwide by the defendants, including flights to and from the US” and were able to adjust those rates 28 times between 1 January 2000 and 30 September 2006, according to a report and recommendations by a US Magistrate Judge in the US District Court in October last year.
The alleged price-fixing has been the subject of antitrust actions around the globe, with large settlements from multi-national airlines in Europe and the US. In New Zealand, the Commerce Commission reached settlements with 11 carriers, including Air New Zealand, securing penalties totaling NZ$45 million (US$28.6 million), or about 10 per cent of the revenue generated from air freight forwarding services in and out of New Zealand in 2006.