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Airlines named in price-fixing investigation

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KAI RYSSDAL: You probably want direct flights if you have to fly this summer. If you’re going New York to London’s Heathrow Airport that limits you to four airlines. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American and United are the only ones flying direct on that route. And today all four were named in a price-fixing investigation. Eric Niiler has more.

ERIC NIILER: British authorities raided corporate offices this month and today the airline suspended two top executives. In Washington, Justice Department officials say they, too, are looking at anticompetitive pricing in passenger and cargo fares. British Airways today denied price fixing. Former British Airways manager Laurie Price says airlines are just working under the same price pressures.

LAURIE PRICE: These issues are well known that the airlines have been adding fuel charges in response to a dramatic increase in the price of crude oil and the subsequent increase in the price of kerosene which has more than doubled in the last 18 months.

Paul Ruden of the American Society of Travel Agents says British and American investigators have to prove the airlines actually got together to match fares and fees.

PAUL RUDEN: It may look like they’ve entered into some sort of tacit agreement when all they are doing is copying each other.

Analysts says consumers probably won’t see big savings even if airlines are found guilty.

In Washington, I’m Eric Niiler for Marketplace.

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