Swiss commission fines airlines for price-fixing

Singapore Airlines is one of 11 carriers fined for freight price-fixing Adrian Yahya/Flickr

The Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) has fined 11 airlines for freight transport price-fixing. Swiss International Air Lines was also involved but will not be sanctioned because its sister company acted as a whistleblower.

This content was published on January 10, 2014 minutes and agencies

The involved airlines – among them British Airways, Air France-KLM, Korean Airlines, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) and Singapore Airlines –  will be fined a total of CHF11 million ($12.1 million) for agreeing on freight rates, fuel surcharges, war risk surcharges, customs clearance surcharges for the United States and on the commissioning of surcharges.

Lufthansa Airlines, of which Swiss International Air Lines is a subsidiary, was also involved but gained immunity from fines by bringing the cartel to authorities’ attention. Swiss also gained immunity as a result.

The carriers fined by COMCO are Korean Air Lines, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, American Airlines, United Continental Holdings, SAS, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Cargolux Airlines International and British Airways.

The investigation into the airline price fixing has been especially complex because so many of the companies involved have air transport agreements in place with third-party states. Switzerland, for example, is part of an air transport agreement with the European Union, which allows for partial integration in transporting goods by air. Therefore, in the proceedings, COMCO had to consider Swiss laws against cartels as well as EU competition rules. 

The US Department of Justice and the EU Commission were also involved in investigating and sanctioning the airlines’ activities. 

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