Another day, and another airline — Emirates this time — gets nicked by the ACCC for allegedly robbing its air freight customers in Australia in a price fixing racket.

The ACCC said this morning it had instituted proceedings against the United Arab Emirates carrier in the Federal Court with a directions hearing set down for 11 September in Sydney. This is the ninth airline to be pursued by the competition watchdog over the fixing of fuel and security surcharges and rates applied to air cargo between 2002 and 2006. But it is only the Australian tip of a bigger crackdown on robber airlines in relation to freight charges fixing that is still underway in North America and Europe.

So far the ACCC cases have seen penalties totalling $41 million levied against carriers operating in Australia, with almost half of that coming from a $20 million penalty imposed on Qantas last December. Most of the carriers pursued by the ACCC, including Qantas, went quietly, admitting their guilt and implicating the few that have fought it through the courts. The carriers that resisted the Australian inquiries are Emirates, Singapore Airlines (Cargo) and Cathay Pacific, with the latter two already involved in part heard proceedings.

In the US, Qantas plea bargained a fine of $68.7 million for its activities which saw its former head of freight in America, Bruce McCaffrey, go to jail for six months. Qantas and the other airlines that took part in the racket world wide now face the prospect of civil actions for damages from their customers in the various jurisdictions.

An update on the provision Qantas is carrying in its accounts for adverse future judgements arising from such cases is expected to be given when it reports its 30 June financial year results tomorrow.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW