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SAN FRANCISCO — British Airways and competitor Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. reached a tentative $200 million settlement of the price-fixing class action over fuel surcharges on tickets. British Airways was fined $500 million by U.S. and United Kingdom authorities last year in a separate action for its role in the fuel-surcharge price-fixing cases. Under terms of the civil settlement, U.S. and U.K passengers, who bought tickets from long-haul routes between Aug. 11, 2004 and March 23, 2006, may be entitled to claim a 33% of the fuel charge levied on each long-haul ticket. “What they were doing was getting on the phone and agreeing what they would charge for the fuel surcharge,” said Joseph W. Cotchett, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame, Calif. He served as co-lead counsel with Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll of Washington, D.C. in In re International Antitrust Surcharge Litigation, C06-1793CRB. (MDL1793). Cotchett called the settlement “extraordinary” because of the airlines decided to forgo legal arguments over the standing of British passengers to sue in the United States. Claims remain against a number of other airlines also allegedly involved in agreeing to boost fuel surcharge amounts. The settlement, which must by approved by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, calls for British Airways to pay as much as $136 million in claims, with $47 million to resolve U.S. claims and $89 million for similar claims by United Kingdom consumers. Virgin Atlantic would pay $67 million, with $12 to U.S. consumers and $55 million to U.K. consumers. The fuel surcharges in 2004 were about $10 per ticket, but by 2006 when the suit was filed, the charged jump to $110 per ticket. Cotchett said attorney fees do not come out of the settlement total but will be paid in a separate agreement with the airlines. British Airways attorney Daryl Libow, of Sullivan & Cromwell in Washington, D.C. confirmed the general terms of the agreement. “This settlement, which British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have jointly agreed with the lawyers for the plaintiffs, is fair and reasonable,” said Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of British Airways, in a prepared statement.

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