New Zealand’s competition watchdog Commerce Commission launched legal action yesterday against 13 international airlines and seven executives, accusing them of operating an illegal air freight cartel.
The commission filed papers in the Auckland High Court alleging that airlines throughout the world colluded to raise the price of freighting cargo by imposing surcharges for fuel and added security measures for more than nine years.
Chairwoman Paula Rebstock said this affected the price of cargo into and out of New Zealand, impacting on every consumer and most businesses.
The accused airlines are: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cargolux International Airlines, Cathay Pacific, PT Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, Malaysian Airline System, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Limited and Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines.
Rebstock said 60 airlines had made an illegal global agreement in 1999-2000 under the auspices of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and similar action was being taken by other competition authorities, including the US Department of Justice, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the European Commission.
She said the cartel had inflicted “very significant harm” on the New Zealand economy and the commission had focused its action on airlines that had the greatest impact on the country.
Rebstock said the airlines earned more than NZ$400 million (US$220 million) a year transporting air cargo to and from New Zealand and received revenue of NZ$2.9 billion while the agreement was in place.