European and US competition authorities have launched a widespread investigation into alleged cartel activity in the air cargo industry.

Overnight, a series of airlines have released details of the requests for information into alleged collusion, issued simultaneously by the European Commission and the US Department of Justice (DoJ). Major carriers so far include: British Airways,  Lufthansa, Japan Airlines (JAL), Korean Air, Cathay Pacific Airways, Air France-KLM, Scandinavian Airlines Cargo (SAS Cargo), American Airlines, and United Airlines. Many airlines also had their offices raided and dossiers seized by officials.

The investigation is into price-fixing between carriers in the air cargo industry, in the form of a global cartel. The EC says in a statement that it "carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several air cargo carriers [and] has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated article 81 of European law, which prohibits practices such as price-fixing." Many of the airlines known to be under investigation are drawn from the major airline alliances OneWorld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam.

However, cargo specialists Cargolux and Polar Air Cargo are also in the list of airlines being probed. The world’s two largest air cargo carriers, FedEx and UPS have not been contacted by either anti-trust body.

BA says that it has received a request for information that relates to “alleged cartel activity involving British Airways” in addition to “a number” of other airlines and cargo operators.

Lufthansa says: “Antitrust authorities are currently investigating possible antitrust law violations in the air cargo industry. As a result of the ongoing investigations, no further information with regard to the proceedings can be provided.”

JAL confirms that its Frankfurt office was raided by EC investigators while Cathay Pacific says it is "in co-operation with the EC and the US DoJ in respect of their investigation into air cargo operations. We understand that they have also requested information from a number of international airlines.”

KAL says investigators from the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) visited the airline’s cargo offices yesterday seeking information and reports say KAL’s rival Asiana Airlines, a Star Alliance member, had a similar visit by FTC investigators, it is understood.

Source: Flight International