U.S. Judge Fines British Airways $300 Million in Price Fixing


British Airways pleaded guilty in U.S. court Thursday in a transatlantic price fixing conspiracy and was fined $300 million.

It was among the largest criminal penalties ever imposed in a U.S. antitrust case and mirrored similar charges and penalties in Britain.

British Airways admitted to colluding with rivals on surcharges on passenger fares and cargo between 2002 and 2006 to help ease the impact of sharp increases in fuel prices.

U.S. District Judge John Bates did not reveal the names of executives involved in the scheme or say whether any had been charged.

He said the penalty was below the amount called for in sentencing guidelines but was reasonable considering the company's "full and substantial" cooperation.

"That is all very much to British Airways' credit," Bates said.

British Airways assisted Justice Department investigators with documents that would not otherwise have been accessible to American authorities.

The airline was one of the first to begin cooperating in the continuing global investigation.

Without British Airways' cooperation, the fine could have ranged between $450 million and $900 million, according to Bates.

British Airways reached a separate agreement with British authorities and agreed to a $247 million fine.

Korean Air Lines, which also faces a $300 million fine, was scheduled to appear before Bates later in the day in the same case.