Many passengers may be entitled to compensation for flights

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A new confession from the two airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, highlighted by BBC's finance programme Moneybox, have sparked views that passengers who took long-haul flights between 2004 and 2006 may be able to claim compensation. The two major airlines have recently admitted to colluding over prices for fuel surcharges on long-haul flights by discussing when to impose fuel surcharges for long-haul flights. Lawyers say that this is something which is illegal under competition laws and could mean passengers are entitled to reclaim the money unfairly lost because of it.

The response has been controversial. The airlines themselves have apologised but insist that any charges would have been imposed anyway, regardless of the discussions amongst them. They believe that customers would have lost the same amount of money regardless of the collusion so there can be no claim. As a spokesperson from Virgin says: "We do not believe it resulted in loss to customers. The total ticket prices charged to our passengers were not higher as we continued to compete fiercely." Similarly British Airways commented: "The fuel surcharge never fully recovered the actual cost of the fuel, therefore we do not believe passengers were overcharged."

But key lawyer Michael Hausfeld, who is representing travellers from the US, argues that because of the fierce competition between the two airlines, it would have been impossible for either one to independently impose a surcharge. Indeed, he says that had the timing been different, some passengers would have had to pay a surcharge and others wouldn't. The two airlines timed the introduction of the charge conveniently so that both would benefit, and neither would suffer from an imbalance of competition.

Though Hausfield is technically fighting for those from the US, he believes that this new case will help UK customers as well to recover the surcharges made. He says: "We intend to bring a companion litigation if necessary in the UK, so that UK residents are not discriminated against."

Deborah Prince, who is head of legal affairs at the major UK consumer organisation Which? also agrees that UK passengers should get compensation for this time period. She says that it is very likely that charges can be reclaimed as the two airlines themselves admit that there has been anti-competitive activity, which is of course illegal. She even indicates that Which? might take its own action on the airlines and passengers can join in in the effort. What would be used is a follow-on case which would make a statement on the behalf of the passengers.

If successful, passengers will be able to reclaim the surcharges imposed on them, which ranged from £5 to £60 during the period in question. However, it will be necessary for all those hopefuls to wait until next year before action is taken from the US lawyers and Which?.

It is urged that all those who think they might be entitled for compensation keep a hold of all their receipts to show proof of flight so that they can claim, if and when the time comes.


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#1 The passengers yet again have to incurr costs to recover costs. The airlines should still have retained all passenger details and their flight references,Therefor returning monies owed should be an automatic transfer
Posted by norman latcham on 07/08/2008 at 19:02
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