When Qantas conspired with a range of other airlines to rob its freight customers through illegal cartel like behaviour involving price fixing between 2000 and 2007 it clearly didn’t expect to be faced with the risk of damages and compensation payments in 2013 and perhaps beyond.

But that’s part of the painful lesson in crime and punishment being delivered to the Australian carrier, and others, as a class action looms in the Federal Court from 27 October, in a trial that has been set down for 26 weeks. 

A detailed summary of the pending class action and the events that preceded it is published on law firm Maurice Blackburn’s site.

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This is part of a notice the Federal Court of Australia required to be published for the information of persons possibly affected by the class action for damages against Qantas and others being brought by the law firm.

The Federal Court of Australia has ordered that this notice be published for the information of persons who might have claims affected by this class action.
If you were resident in Australia as at 11 January 2007; and in the period 1 January 2000 to 11 January 2007, paid identified amounts totalling more than AUD$20,000 for the carriage of goods to or from Australia, including in each instance a component by air and have not opted out, you are a group member in this class action.

The allegations in the class action relate to an alleged cartel to fix the price of international air freight services, and specifically the level of fuel and security surcharges imposed. Proceedings have been brought against Qantas Airways Limited, Lufthansa Cargo Aktiengesellschaft, Singapore Airlines Ltd, Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, Air New Zealand Ltd, Air New Zealand (Australia) Pty Ltd and British Airways Plc. Some respondents have also joined other airlines (cross-respondents). To date the Respondents have denied the allegations, and are defending the class action.

The cross-respondents are expected to do the same.

The proceeding claims that the cartel caused the prices of international airfreight services supplied by carriers including the Respondents to be higher than they would otherwise have been. The Applicants are claiming damages, declarations, injunctions and other orders on behalf of themselves and on behalf of the group members. You can only claim damages if you sustained loss or damage by reason of the alleged conduct which is the subject of these proceedings and have not released such a claim.

By way of further historical detail, a Qantas executive involved in the illegal conduct in which the airline engaged, Bruce McCaffrey, was jailed for six months in the US in 2009, after the airline’s more senior management traded an indemnity from prison terms as part of a negotiated cash settlement with US authorities of their liability and that of Qantas for its actions in America.

One of the few stories that made it into print in this country about McCaffrey’s being sacrificed by Qantas in this manner can be read here.

No on-the-record accounts have been discovered of any detailed contrition by Qantas for its robbing its freight customers at home or abroad over a seven year period, nor indeed of its casting McCaffrey adrift to do time in an American prison.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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