china cargo © Brostock
© Brostock

Air China and its cargo subsidiary have agreed to pay $50m to settle its antitrust class action case with air cargo shippers, following a day in mediation in December.

The move leaves the two remaining airlines in the case, Air India and Air New Zealand, potentially liable for all economic losses suffered by customers. They could face trial in September.

Despite Air China “exploring the possibility of settlement” more than four years ago, the first talks were not productive. Talks restarted at the end of last year.

The case was originally filed in 2006. Atlas Air and Polar Air settled last month for $100m, bringing the total settlements in the case up to more $1.1bn.

Some airlines, including Air New Zealand, had claimed that there was no evidence of their participation in a conspiracy and that their actions were, in some cases, requested by foreign governments. They argued that in countries including Japan, New Zealand and China, as well as in Hong Kong, an agreement on surcharges was permitted.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the class action said the Air China settlement was “an excellent result”.

Hollis Salzman, of Robins Kaplan, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said: “After a decade of intense preparation, including taking depositions around the world and analysing over 12 million pages of documents, we are now very much looking forward to trying our case against the final two defendants.”

The risk for the two carriers is high: following the court’s ruling on class certification, the pair could be held liable for almost the entire amount of economic harm imposed by all the members of the conspiracy.

Plaintiffs named in the case include Volvo, IKEA, Yamaha, Geodis Wilson, Bosch, Hershey, Mazada, Mitsubishi, GE and General Motors.

Other airlines that have settled”

Korean Air: $115m
Polar Air Cargo/Atlas Air: $100m*
EVA Airways: $99m, plus $200,000 in costs*
Singapore Airlines : $92.5m
China Airlines: $90m
BA: $89.5m plus costs up to $500,000
AF-KLM-Martinair: $87m, plus costs up to $500,000
Lufthansa & Swiss: $85m
LAN: $66m plus costs up to $150,000
Cathay Pacific: $65m
Asiana: $55m*
Nippon Cargo Airlines: $36.35m plus $200,000 in costs*
Cargolux: $35.1 plus costs up to $150,000
Qantas $26.5m, plus costs ip to $250,000
El Al : $15.8m
Saudia: $14m
SAS: $13.93m, plus costs up to $500,000
Japan Airlines: $12m
ANA: $10.4m
Emirates: $7.8m
Air Canada: $7.5m
American Airlines: $5m
Thai Airways Intl: $3.5m
South African Airways : $3.29m plus $150,000
Malaysian Airlines: $3.2m plus $150,000

* Still awaiting final approval

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