Court: Lawsuit against Qantas may proceed


Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s biggest airline, and six other carriers, must defend against claims they participated in a global conspiracy to fix rates for international air cargo shipments, an appeals court ruled.

The Federal Court of Australia today overturned a lower court decision dismissing a group lawsuit in a judgment issued in Melbourne and broadcast into federal court in Sydney.

Qantas conspired with other airlines to fix cargo rates from January 2000 to January 2007, Auskay International Manufacturing & Trade Ltd., a manufacturer of central vacuum systems, claimed in the 2007 lawsuit. Qantas was the largest hauler of air cargo between Australia and U.S. in the period.

“After several years, we can move forward,” Brooke Dellavedova, a lawyer at Maurice Blackburn who represents Auskay, said in a phone interview from Melbourne. “We’re very happy with the decision.”

Auskay represents all Australians who paid more than A$20,000 ($18,000) to have goods shipped from the country by air between 2000 and 2007, in the group, or class action, lawsuit. The company has amended its claim four times since 2007, after judges threw out earlier versions.

Reviewing Decision

Simon Rushton, a spokesman for Sydney-based Qantas, said the company is reviewing the decision and may comment later.

Qantas had pleaded guilty to participating in a global conspiracy to fix rates for international air cargo shipments and agreed to pay a $61 million criminal fine in the U.S. in 2007. The airline was also ordered to pay A$20 million in penalties in 2008, after admitting to allegations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that it colluded with other airlines on fuel surcharges for cargo.

Also named in the lawsuit are: Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Singapore Airlines Ltd., Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Air New Zealand Ltd., Japan Airlines International Ltd. and British Airways Plc.

The case is Between Auskay International Manufacturing & Trade Ltd. and Qantas Airways Ltd. VID903/2009 and VID48/2010. Federal Court of Australia Full Court (Melbourne).