British Airways is setting aside 511 million euros to pay potential fines after it admitted fixing prices for fuel surcharges. BA is being investigated by UK and US authorities over the extra charges added to ticket prices to cover rising fuel costs. The airline’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, apologised but insisted passengers were not overcharged. He said: “I apologise and I find it deeply regrettable that the policies we have in place were breached. We have not overcharged, the fuel surcharges that are in place are directly related to the price of fuel.”
BA has admitted that its staff discussed with other airlines how much the surcharges should be, that which breaks competition laws. The whole idea of fuel surcharges is contentious. Consumer groups say they are unfair. Malcolm Cole of consumer magazine Which said: “You don’t expect to go to a shop and buy a sandwich and when you get to the till to be told: ‘There is a surcharge on the filling, it’s not two pounds, it’s two pounds and fifty pence.’ Fuel is core to what airlines do.”
As well as the fuel surcharge problem, BA also announced a fourth-quarter net loss of 187 million euros due partly to the cost of grounding flights over a cabin crew strike threat.