EU General Court dismisses appeals by carriers including Cargolux, Air France-KLM, and Singapore Airlines against multi-million euro penalties but reduced some fines paid by other airlines including JAL, Air Canada, BA, Cathay Pacific and Latam

By Will Waters

One of Europe’s highest courts has mostly upheld a series of long-standing air freight cartel fines totalling hundreds of millions of euros following appeals by many of the air cargo carriers involved in the cases, which date back more than a decade.

The European Union (EU) General Court dismissed the actions by carriers including Cargolux, Air France-KLM, and Singapore Airlines but reduced some fines paid by other airlines including JAL, Air Canada, BA, Cathay Pacific and Latam.

The airlines have been challenging the decision and the penalties contained within a 2010 European Commission decision that found them guilty of operating a price-fixing cargo cartel from around 1999 to 2006, with the fines imposed by the Commission totalling more than €700 million.

After the General Court in 2015 concluded that there had been a procedural error in the Commission’s 2010 decision following an initial appeal by some of the airlines, several carriers sought a full annulment of the decision or a reduction in their fines.

But in its latest decision on 30 March (LINK TO: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2022-03/cp220053en.pdf), the General Court – a constituent court of the Court of Justice of the European Union that hears actions taken against the institutions of the EU – dismissed the appeal brought by Martinair Holland, Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KLM), Cargolux Airlines, Air France-KLM, Air France, ‘Lufthansa and Others’, Singapore Airlines and Singapore Airlines Cargo and upheld the fines imposed on those companies by the Commission.

However, it annulled elements of the Commission’s decision in the cases involving Japan Airlines, Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, ‘SAS Cargo Group and Others’, Latam Airlines Group and Lan Cargo, and reduced some of their respective fines – by around 20% in most cases, although the penalty jointly against Latam Airlines Group and Lan Cargo was cut by around three quarters, from €8.22 million to €2.24 million.

Decisions of the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice, but only on a point of law. 

The 30 March decision is expected to bring to an end this long-running case.