European Commission drops Air NZ anti-competition charges

UPDATED: Air New Zealand says the European Commission has dropped a case against it alleging anti-competitive conduct in the air cargo business. The European Union has fined 11 airlines a total 799.4 million euro ($NZ1.4 billion) for fixing prices on international cargo shipments but dropped charges against a further 11 airlines. Air NZ said the case has been dropped against it. "This brings closure to one more part of the ongoing investigations and proceedings which commenced in February 2006," Air New Zealand said in a statement to NZX.

UPDATED: Air New Zealand says the European Commission has dropped a case against it alleging anti-competitive conduct in the air cargo business.

The European Union has fined 11 airlines a total 799.4 million euro ($NZ1.4 billion) for fixing prices on international cargo shipments but dropped charges against a further 11 airlines.

Air NZ said the case has been dropped against it.

"This brings closure to one more part of the ongoing investigations and proceedings which commenced in February 2006," Air New Zealand said in a statement to NZX.

The European Commission, the EU's competition watchdog, said "the carriers co-ordinated their action on surcharges for fuel and security without discounts" between December 1999 and February 2006, when the EU's investigation stopped the cartel, Associated Press reported.

"Had it not been for the commission's intervention, the cartel would not have ended in 2006," said competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

Air France-KLM received the largest fine and has to pay 310.1m euros ($NZ623.7m), while British Airways PLC was fined 104m euros. Air France-KLM will also have to pay the 29.5m euros fine for Martinair, which it now owns.

Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, Cargolux, Japan Airlines, LAN Chile, SAS, Singapore Airlines and Qantas will also have to pay fines between 8.2m euro and 79.9m euro.

The commission dropped charges against 11 other carriers and one consultancy, because it couldn't prove they participated in the cartel.

Lufthansa escaped a fine because it blew the whistle on the cartel. All other carriers, except Singapore Airlines, had their fines reduced by between 15 percent and 50 percent for cooperating with the EU's investigation.

The US Department of Justice has already charged 18 airlines and several executives in its investigation of the cargo cartel and imposed more than $US1.6 billion ($NZ2.18b) in fines.