Several major airlines have confirmed they have received requests or
subpoenas from British and United States
agencies regarding a possible conspiracy to illegally fix the amounts of fuel
surcharges imposed on passengers on long-haul flights to and from Britain. The
U.S. Justice Department and the U.K.'s
Office of Fair Trade have contacted several airlines including British Airways,
which said it was cooperating with the investigation and had given two
executives leaves of absence during inquiry. American Airlines acknowledged it
had received a federal grand jury subpoena on the matter, but said it was not
the target of the inquiry. United Airlines also received an inquiry and was
cooperating, but said it too was not a target. Virgin Atlantic Airways said it
was aware of the investigation and cooperating. That said, the Office of Fair
Trade said it was at an early stage and that media should not assume there has
been a violation of law. Any violation of price-fixing laws could carry civil and
criminal penalties. With fuel pricing soaring, most airlines have added a $64 or
so fuel surcharge between the U.S.
and London's HeathrowAirport.
Consumer advocates believe that the surcharges can be a deceptive means for
airlines to raise fares well beyond the higher fuel costs.