BA chiefs chargedin price fixing case

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The Independent Online

Four past and present British Airways executives face potential prison sentences of up to five years after being summonsed yesterday over offences relating to airline industry price-fixing.

Andrew Crawley, BA's head of sales, will face charges at City of London Magistrates Court on 24 September, alongside Martin George, Iain Burns and Alan Burnett, the airline's former commercial director, its former head of communications and its former UK head of sales.

The case, brought by the Office of Fair Trading, follows a probe into collusion over fuel surcharges on BA and Virgin Atlantic flights between July 2004 and April 2006. The inquiry was prompted by whistleblowers at Virgin – which then escaped punishment for its role in the affair.

BA has already admitted "anti-competitive activity" and has agreed to pay fines levied by the OFT and the US Department of Justice (DoJ). Virgin and BA will also compensate up to 11 million passengers who lost out.

The four executives charged yesterday are now almost certain to avoid any extradition to the US. However, six other former and current BA staff remain vulnerable to American prosecutors, having already been refused immunity by the DoJ.

BA refused to comment on the case yesterday. A spokesman for Mr Burns said he would contest the charges, having had no responsibility at BA for pricing in the period investigated. A spokesman for Mr George described the allegations as "unfounded". Mr Burnett could not be reached.

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