British Airways sales chief, ex-managers in price-fixing trial
Three former British Airways executives and one current manager are facing claims they schemed with Virgin Atlantic Airways to fix fuel surcharges on trans-Atlantic flights, at a criminal trial that began today.
Andrew Crawley, British Airways’ head of sales; Martin George, a former board member; Iain Burns, ex-head of communications; and Alan Burnett, former head of UK and Ireland sales, appeared today for the trial in Southwark Crown Court in London.
The four men in July 2009 pleaded not guilty to criminal antitrust violations brought by the Office of Fair Trading, a UK antitrust regulator. The competition watchdog accused the men of colluding to fix the price of fuel surcharges on passenger flights with Virgin from July 2004 to April 2006.
“The crucial element of the offense to remember is dishonesty,” Richard Latham, a prosecutor for the OFT, told the court. “Every purchaser is a victim.”
The men each face as many as five years in prison if they are found guilty of operating a cartel with the competing carrier. No one from Virgin, based in Crawley, England, was charged in the case.
The OFT won its first convictions for members of a cartel in 2008, when three men were sentenced to as long as three years in jail for conspiring to fix the price of hoses used in the oil industry. The UK criminalised antitrust violations in 2002.