Air New Zealand travellers sought for cartel lawsuit
PASSENGERS who flew across the Pacific during the last 15 years are being urged to apply for funds from a price fixing class action against airlines, including Air New Zealand.
The legal case, filed in Northern California, has been labelled as "opportunistic" by Air New Zealand which is defending the case but has allowed for a potential liability in its accounts for the past eight years.
Eight airlines have already paid close to US$40 million in the case taken by San Francisco lawyers and they have advertised in today's New Zealand Herald seeking applications from passengers who may have been affected.
The action claims the airlines agreed to fix prices and this may have resulted in passengers paying more than what was necessary since 2000.
The class action lawyers are part of a group called AirlineSettlement.com.
The group says eight of 13 airlines flying between the US and Asia, Australia New Zealand or the Pacific Islands have already settled and agreed to pay US$39.5 million, although deny the allegations and any liability.
As well as Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airlines, China Airlines, EVA Airlines and Philippines Airlines have not settled.
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the proceedings were filed in 2007.
"Air New Zealand, following thorough internal investigation, found no basis for the claim which it considers to be entirely opportunistic," she said.
" Airfares are highly competitive and very transparent to travellers and travel agents and due to an efficient, international distribution network."
The claim has been included as a possible liability in the airline's annual accounts for the past eight years as with a series of action around alleged cargo price fixing.
The airline has settled on one part of the cargo cartel case brought by regulators around the world but has successfully defended other cargo case class action.
Air France, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines are the "settling defendants."
The law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP says it does not know how claimants there will be but there are hundreds of thousands of passengers who flew during the period. Payments would have to be approved by a US court and this may not happen until later this year.
Court action against the non-settling airlines may not start for another two years, said lawyer Adam Zapala.
On its website one of the Defendants-ANA of Japan-has pleaded guilty to fixing the prices of certain discounted tickets sold in the United States from at least as early as April 1, 2000 until at least April 1, 2004.
"At this time, it is unknown how much each eligible member of the classes will receive. In order to receive a payment you will need to file a valid claim form. To save time and money, payments will be made at the conclusion of the case," the group of lawyers say.