UK regulator alleges price-fixing by Cathay and Virgin Atlantic

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Oneworld carrier Cathay Pacific Airways and UK long-haul operator Virgin Atlantic are being scrutinised over possible price-fixing on the London-Hong Kong route.

While the UK's consumer-protection division, the Office of Fair Trading, stresses that neither carrier has been proven to have acted illegally, it has sent a formal statement of objection alleging that the two have "infringed competition law".

"The case concerns a number of alleged contacts between employees of the two airlines over a number of years which, it is alleged, had the object of co-ordinating the parties' respective pricing strategies regarding passenger fares through the exchange of commercially-sensitive information on pricing and other commercial matters," says the Office.

Cathay Pacific brought the matter to the Office's attention and, as a result, will be immune from any subsequent penalty. Ironically, Virgin Atlantic had previously acted as a similar 'whistleblower' in a cartel case involving Oneworld carrier British Airways.

Virgin Atlantic does not believe it acted "in any way contrary to the interests of consumers", and says it will defend itself against the allegations.

Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic will be given the opportunity to respond to the statement of objections, which sets out the case against the airlines and the action which the Office proposes to take.