British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been ordered to pay over £100 million in refunds to eight million passengers in the UK and US who were victims of its fuel surcharge cartel. With around £73.5 million set aside to refund UK customers, lawyers say affected passengers should register to claim now and send a message to big companies that price fixing is not acceptable.
The airlines were found to have colluded to fix fuel surcharges, which are added to base ticket prices. Any customer or business that took a transatlantic or other long-haul flight between 11 August 2004 and 23 March 2006 with either of the airlines could be eligible for a refund of up to £20 per passenger for a return flight.
Background to the case
Last year BA was fined £121.5 million by the Offfice of Fair Trading and $300 million by the US Department of Justice for conspiring with Virgin to artificially inflate the fuel surcharges added to ticket prices. Virgin escaped a fine because it blew the whistle on the cartel.
On 15 February both airlines were ordered to pay $200 million (£102 million) to around eight million US and UK customers who paid over the odds in fuel surcharges between 11 August 2004 and 23 March 2006. The settlement agreement is currently with the US Courts for approval.
The case, which sets a legal precedent as it is the first time non-US citizens have been rewarded on an equal footing to US citizens in a case before the US courts, was brought by claimant law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll and co-counsel Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.
Ingrid Gubbay, formerly of consumer watchdog Which? and now a consultant at Cohen Milstein, said: “We will be doing everything we can to encourage consumers to claim their refunds – unless significant numbers of claims are made big companies will continue to believe they can get away with ripping off consumers in the UK.”
How to claim
It is completely free to claim for a refund.
If you bought a ticket in the UK for a transatlantic or seven hour plus long-haul flight from BA or Virgin between 11 August 2004 and 23 March 2006 then you can register for a refund online at www.airpassengerrefund.co.uk.
Or if you rather phone, call freephone 0800 043 0343.
You will be asked to submit your contact information, including a postal address and telephone number. You will then either be sent a written claim form in the post or a link to an online claim form via email.
Individuals and companies are eligible to apply for a refund, as are people who bought direct from the airlines, through a travel agent, as part of a package holiday or from a website.
If you bought tickets in the US then you have to register your details on www.airpassengerrefund.com.
Refunds will not be made until the US Court has approved the settlement agreement. It will then consider all individuals and businesses that have registered for a refund, and if it considers then eligible will send out refund cheques.
The size of the refund you receive will depend on when you booked the flight. However, it will be up to £20 per passenger for return flights.
BA customers are now facing higher ticket costs after the airline announced that it is increasing its fuel surcharges for long-haul flights.
The surcharge for flights between seven and nine hours long will rise from £96 to £106 for a return flight, while the charge on nine-hour plus flights will increase from £116 to £128.
The fuel surcharge of short-haul flights will remain at £20 for a return flight.