Virgin Atlantic and British Airways admitted last week to the Department of Justice that they colluded to levy excess fuel surcharges ranging from $10 to $100. Despite the admission, both airlines claim that passengers weren’t really overcharged.
From USA Today:
Officials at both British carriers say passengers weren’t overcharged despite the collusion. Virgin Atlantic spokesman Paul Charles said that “no passengers have paid more than the total ticket price would have been anyway.” That’s because, he says, the discussions between the rivals had no effect on the surcharges that were set.
Michael Hausfeld, lead attorney in a federal class action suit against the airlines, came up with an analogy to show the ridiculousness of the airlines’ logic:
“It’s like a thief beating you up, taking your wallet, and telling you, ‘But I left your money.’ Why would they do that? Of course they charged passengers more.”
The Department of Justice agreed, albeit without resorting to clever analogies:
“Does it make sense that a company would risk the type of fines that are being imposed, that executives would face lengthy jail sentences … to continue to participate day after day, month after month, year after year, in a conspiracy that had no effect?”
Bilked passengers should not expect a substantial refund. Hausfeld’s class action will likely extract $15 to $25 vouchers good for future travel with the overcharging airlines.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic fliers could be reimbursed [USA Today]
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)