Air NZ to defend US class action

Air New Zealand will defend a multi-billion dollar class action in the United States accusing it of colluding to fix prices on international air freight services.

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Air NZ, Air China and Air China Cargo, Air India, and Polar Air Cargo and its parent Atlas Air Worldwide, failed in an application to end the claim on Monday after a hearing in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Judge John Gleeson set a final pre-trial hearing for January 8, 2016, with jury selection and the trial to start on January 25.

The claim was filed in 2006 on behalf of six freight forwarders and has been led by global law firm Hausfeld.

Settlements worth almost $US1.04 billion ($A1.48 billion) have been reached with 27 airlines, including Qantas, which paid $US26.5 million.

The plaintiffs estimate damages at about $US2.66b, which would treble to as much as $US7.98b under US antitrust laws.

“Any defendants found liable would be jointly and severally responsible for the full amounts, plus fees and costs, less settlements received from other defendants,” Hausfeld lawyer Brent Laundau said in an emailed comment.

The freight forwarders allege the airlines “conspired to develop and implement an industry-wide index for calculating fuel and security surcharges that were applied to thousands of routes flown worldwide by the defendants, including flights to and from the United States”, and were able to adjust those rates 28 times between January 1, 2000, and September 30, 2006, according to a report by a US district court judge in October 2014.

The alleged price-fixing has been the subject of antitrust actions around the globe, with big settlements from multi-national airlines in Europe and the US.

In New Zealand, the Commerce Commission reached settlements with 11 carriers, including Air NZ, securing penalties totalling $NZ45m ($A40.60m), or about 10 per cent of the revenue generated from air freight forwarding services in and out of New Zealand in 2006.