In 2015, EU Courts, “on procedural grounds” threw out fines of US$844 million against a handful of airlines for their alleged participation in a cargo cartel between 2000 – 2006. This week the case is back to haunt airlines, with the European Commission undoing its annulment, and reimposing the fines.
During the interim period since the case was overturned, some airlines had reportedly been trying to settle out of court with the Commission to avoid additional consumer lawsuits. Although two airlines, Lufthansa and subsidiary Swiss, will continue to enjoy whistleblower status for their early cooperation with EU courts; other airlines, including Air Canada, Air France-KLM, British Airways, Cargolux Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, SAS, and Singapore Airlines are once again facing fines.
The Commission acknowledged that, although procedural inconsistencies led to the case being thrown out in 2015, it was unable to prove whether infringement had occurred, and thus the case was not necessarily closed.
Carriers have begun responding to the new decision. Cargolux today said it was not surprised by the re-imposition of its €79.9 million fine, and added: “At this stage Cargolux is reviewing the decision and has not yet decided whether to lodge an application for annulment.” Other carriers, meanwhile, have already pledged to defend themselves. A spokeswoman from Air Canada said the airline “maintains that it has, at all times, respected all applicable laws with regard to competition.”