Airlines accused of criminally profiting off fuel surcharges

If you think the recent scourge of airline-fuel-surcharge increases has been practically criminal, you're not alone. Word surfaced late Thursday that Britain's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the U.S. Justice Department are investigating allegations of "price fixing" by the airlines. The reports I've seen are focusing on British Airways, although the word seems to be that other (unnamed) carriers may also be involved. The OFT's investigation reportedly centers on fuel surcharges for long-haul flights to and from the U.K.

Kate Wilcox, the OFT's spokesperson, warns that "nobody should be assuming there has been an infringement of competition law," but at least one other airline disagrees. Ryanair spokesperson Peter Sherrard is quoted in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper as saying, "[It is] about time that British Airways' rapacious fuel surcharges were investigated. It is ridiculous that as the price of oil has doubled, British Airways has increased its fuel surcharge 14-fold."

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Several other airlines have been contacted about this "rapacious" behavior as well. American and United are both "cooperating fully with the investigation," although neither airline is currently thought to be a target of it. Neither Continental nor Delta has been contacted, according to airline sources.

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