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Where's Branson's apology?

Robert Peston | 09:05 UK time, Wednesday, 1 August 2007

For a business nerd like me, it’s much more gripping than a blockbusting summer novel. I’m talking about BA’s “summary statement of facts” published today about its unlawful conversations with Virgin Atlantic about changes to fuel surcharges levied on long-haul passengers

Virgin and British Airways planesSecret talks took place in a systematic way over 17 months between BA and Virgin executives about the plans of their respective airlines to change this important element in the price of airline tickets.

This was not a careless accident. The two big birds – which have a huge share of business on important routes – were not competing properly on price over an extended period: they were giving each other comfort that they would not undercut each other on the fuel surcharge.

It is about as blatant a breach of competition law as it’s possible to imagine.

BA is paying quite a price for its wrongdoing: £350m in fines from regulators and related costs.

By contrast, Virgin won’t pay a penny in fines and actually emerges as a winner, since all the opprobrium of the rule-breach has been heaped on BA.

Virgin escapes any penalties because it was the whistleblower.

Experience indicates that providing immunity to whistleblowers is the sine qua non of enforcing competition law.

But it makes for quite rough justice, since – on BA’s account – Virgin was a willing participant in this shameful attempt to rig the market.

In other words, Virgin’s behaviour was well below the standards expected of it by customers.

Which begs only one question, if it’s not going to dispute BA’s narrative: where is the public apology from Sir Richard Branson?

UPDATE: 22:35 A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic has telephoned to tell me that le patron has now apologised. But the statement he then emailed is not actually in Sir Richard's name. However, here it is: "Virgin Atlantic is sorry that the events took place and apologises to customers."

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:45 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Juan C wrote:

you raise a fair point. although probably virgin will defend themselves by saying "they initiatied the action to bring this to an end". However this behaviour is endemic in the industry. One interesting example is the routes to South America, via Sao Paulo, Rio or Buenos Aires. All the companies tend to charge more or less the same fare, which is about double that of a tipical fare for Autralia, being half the distance...
Yes, there is a scale issue with more people travelling to OZ, but the numbers don't seem to add up....

  • 2.
  • At 09:48 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • colin carter wrote:

L well and good for B.A. to come out with all this "honesty" but again its poor joe public that always pays in the long term, "VIRGIN" just the same . the big companies do what they like and get away with it ,when they do get "caught" it always the same "our staff have been informed that we obay the laws"and one or two wil resign , golden handshakes to take the "rap" why dont the meida do a "where are they now "and see what position these people get after the fiasco dies down ,

  • 3.
  • At 09:51 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

What happens to these fines once taken and how are they utilised?

I am all for less air travel, but are these funds put back into the system that would in some way benefit the consumer.

Am I being naive?

I am not sure Branson owes an apology because we are not privy to the facts.

For all we know the OFT were informed immediately and asked virgin to continue with the scam until enough evidence was collected to prove the case against all employees involved at BA.

However if history is anything to go by most in the know at BA will walk away scot free.

BA are not a trusted brand in my opionion and I stopped using them many years ago and will never return.

They are the playground bully in every sense and an embarassment to the UK.

  • 5.
  • At 10:04 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Virgin should be punished as they were willing to enter into the same agreement.
But I dont see whats wrong with agreeing with your competitor not to undercut them...supermarkets do it all the time.

why we allowed leadership to do such a hefty wrongdoing -- it disrepute business as a whole , and create more hate-rate towards executive class..

next Banks are in line from FSA..
there is something wrong with regulations , which allows executive's greed to expand such an extend?

  • 7.
  • At 10:14 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John wrote:

Given the current level of surcharges levied, has anything changed?
A London, New York return with Virgin in September attracts £161.90 in taxes, fees, charges and surcharges. The same BA flight attracts £162.10 a difference of 20p!
All this case has done is fine BA a sum its retirement fund could well use and make out that Virgin is a 'Saint', something it blatantly is not.

  • 8.
  • At 10:19 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Al wrote:

As shameful as the whole incident for both airlines is, I’m glad there was a whistle blower. I’m sure there is collusion like this across the board for most industries that the general consumer doesn’t know about. Without a whistle blower, it would be next to impossible to prove illegal collusion so I agree that Virgin Airlines be excluded from prosecution to encourage this.

  • 9.
  • At 10:23 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jack Ferris wrote:

I was quite suprised this morning to read the BA press statement of the 5 incidents that OFT have investigated. In most cases Virgin were the instigator of the various discussions. Of course BA execs were willing participants, but the coverage today is that BA are the bad boys and there is no mention of Virgin whatsoever. Has Richard Branson sacked the people involved from his airline or has be just given them a hefty bonus for stitching up 'the enemy'? Where is the statement from Virgin condeming the behaviour of its staff? From the silence perhaps we should conclude that they condone this behaviour and simply put the OFT number on speed-dial so they can always own up first!!!! BA get a £350 mil fine and Virgin get away with nothing - as a BA shareholder I feel pretty bitter about that!

  • 10.
  • At 10:23 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

While Virgin can expect a more lenient punishment for becoming a grass, it seems to be taking it too far to escape punishment entirely.

  • 11.
  • At 10:25 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Mike G wrote:

Dear Robert,

I absolutely agree with your article's sentiment; corporate price-fixing is an all too common practice, and we haven't yet discussed the utility or oil/petrol companies.

After 'Enron-gate' I thought corporate governance, through improved controls and more rigorous auditing, had all but removed such practices. But no, and again Joe Public pays the price. Virgin Atlantic prides intelf on being the 'people's airline' with a less stuffy image. We just didn't realise that whilst they were smiling at us in their red uniforms, they were taking our wallets from our back pockets!!

As for B.A., they lost all credibility years ago. They strive for mediocre service and manage to fail easily, provide such surly face-to-face interaction and wonder why they've suffered in recent years. And I'm not in the least bit surprised they've been caught with their hands in the till; Britain's worst service!

  • 12.
  • At 10:27 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Stefan Paetow wrote:

Unless we know how long Virgin Atlantic colluded with BA on price fixing, and you personally know something the rest of us don't, no-one, including you Robert, can claim an apology from Virgin.

The BBC reported on this initially, and from the original reporting it sounded like BA's initial approach on fixing fuel surcharges with Virgin was rebuffed, and reported to OFT immediately.

That said, if it does come to light that Virgin Atlantic DID collude with BA for a while before reporting BA to the OFT, then yes, they should also be fined. But as a whistleblower and by cooperating with the authorities, they do get a measure of immunity against prosecution.

Either way, two British brands are tarnished because of this.

  • 13.
  • At 10:28 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Steve Roberts wrote:

Your article is very informative but misses a key point. That being that Virgin may still be punished as part of criminal proceedings currently underway.

Whilst they may look to have been let off so far, watch this space!

  • 14.
  • At 10:28 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

Virgin have run a highly effective PR campaign over the years and many have chosen to believe it. Perhaps this incident will encourage the public to more critically examine how its actions compare with its words.

  • 15.
  • At 10:31 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jacques Cartier wrote:

If it is necessary to let whistleblowers off scott free, then Virgin has no case to answer - that is what "scott free" means. If whistleblowers did not get off scott free, there would be fewer whistleblowers, and more abuse.

We can now assume that BA "has it in" for Virgin, and if there is any more of this jiggery-pockery, they will do the back stabbing. I love business - it's better than an episode of "Rome".

  • 16.
  • At 10:36 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Steve Roberts wrote:

And in response to the question from Alex - the fines go straight to the Treasury.

  • 17.
  • At 10:40 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I can't help thinking that this sounds like Virgin enjoying the taste of revenge for previous BA deeds. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold!

  • 18.
  • At 10:53 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Stephen Green wrote:

Thankfully BA took the "British" out of its title some time ago. It also ceased to be a morally acceptable organisation at the same time. The existance of its dirty tricks department reflects the quality of management it has recently employed. Its failure to tackle the quality of its service at Heath Row combined with these fines must mean that isolvency and liquidatition will shortly follow. No doubt the Chinese will then buy the assets from the receiver and the existing crooked senior management will walk away with Golden Handshakes and a sneer on their collective faces

  • 19.
  • At 10:55 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Nigel Morden wrote:

So will the people who paid all these unlawful surcharges get their money back?

Justice, HA!

  • 20.
  • At 10:56 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Patrick wrote:

The may appear a very basic question, but what is the difference between this price fixing and the way seats on different airlines on the same route seem to rise and fall together when you are booking on the internet?

Surely both are illegal...

  • 21.
  • At 10:58 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • philth wrote:

The strangest thing to me is why BA were in secret negoitations with Virgin. A few years ago they where at each others throats, this being the case BA should have expected Virgin to blow the whistle

  • 22.
  • At 11:01 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Hertbert wrote:

Virgin whistleblower come off it, as soon as there was a whisper that there was chance that the deal would be made public that clean, well living master of deception - Branston would have looked at getting one up on BA. He would have used all his conections - come on Gov. I am innocent. Got you BA.

  • 23.
  • At 11:10 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jel wrote:

An alternative viewpoint is that Branson had them hooked, filleted and fried as a matter of revenge - and this is just the UK leg, there's the US to come, which is liable to make this fine look like peanuts. There's no point whatsoever in blowing this kind of whistle if BA can get off the hook because nothing actually happened, Virgin had to get get them so far skewered that no amount of wriggling could save them, and that may have meant not being able to keep their own hands squeaky-clean in the process.
Given the repeated dirty deeds BA has done to Virgin over the years, it would be hard to blame him.

  • 24.
  • At 11:11 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Simon Webley wrote:

So, the net result of this episode is that the Treasury gets an unexpected boost from the excessive fares BA have levied on us. It strikes me that compulsory refunds to passengers should have been an element in the punishment. OK it's would be a hassel for BA but at present the loosers still loose!

  • 25.
  • At 11:14 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Thomas Walker wrote:

how can Willie Walsh say that BA customers were not overcharged? this was systematic fraud over a long period by the two big UK carriers on transatlantic routes.
Having flown both longhall and domestic with BA during this time I for one feel ripped off. and as for "Saint Branson" were his employees who were involved in this given the sack or a bonus!!!

  • 26.
  • At 11:15 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Martin Yates wrote:

Well, I travel a lot, and I have been converted from "BA is the best" to "BA are as mediocre as the rest" and after this fiasco, my suspicions have been confirmed that BA are just another big business who push Customers around in the name of the shareholders.

I'm no big Virgin fan, but I will certainly look to fly with a non BA airline where I can. They unfortunately have a bit of a monopoly on a lot of destinations from Heathrow, my closest airport.

I agree that that the fine should not go to the Govt.. maybe to the pension fund or even the Shareholders. Here's a novel idea - how about giving some of that back to the Customers who have been hoodwinked?

I am not sure Virgin should walk away, either, but at least BA are getting what they deserve. Once my Airmiles are used up, I will become an ex BA Customer.

  • 27.
  • At 11:18 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Les Cullen wrote:

I feel particularly bitter toward BA. They partake in such price fixing activities then expect us business people to be loyal. They supposedly reward our loyalty with miles gathered as an Executive club member. When you attempt to redeem those miles there is never a seat available. The executive club is a scam and I am pleased to see these tyrants being punished.

  • 28.
  • At 11:20 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Michael Hughes wrote:

The real travisty of justice is Virgin getting off scot-free.

Its such a shame that the summary of facts will not be wider read by consumers. There is a clear catalogue of meetings and decisions designed to reduce price differences and not give the consumer the choice of fare competition.

VAA behaved in just a cynical manner as BA and both should be equally punished, if not by the legal system, then by consumers.

and thats from someone who has seen RBranson as an icon over the past 20 years.

  • 29.
  • At 11:24 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • keith morris wrote:

It appears that Virgin lead the changes 3 times, British Airways twice and neither "lead" on three occasions.

Yet Virgin (The "British" airline controlled 51% by non-UK tax paying trusts in the Caribbean and 49% by Singapore Airlines) get off scot free and BA get the masive fine.

Surely justice dictates this discrepancy should be reduced. Virgin are just as guilty as BA

  • 30.
  • At 11:29 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Stuart Bradshaw wrote:

Based on this, a very effective strategy for a big airline to get ahead of its major competitor is to get into an illegal practice and then blow the whistle. If this is such an effective approach, it's no wonder it is so common! It's obvious we urgently need to change the rules, or this practice will just carry on occurring.

Also - I assume Virgin, as the morally-upstanding company it is, is planning to refund all the extra money it took as a result of fixed prices...? Oh no, apparently not.

  • 31.
  • At 11:34 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David wrote:

What happens to the fines? A fairer punishment would be for BA to be required to refund all fuel surcharges to all passengers who have travelled with them over the period of the collusion (and pay for administering this).
I and many other frequent long-haul travellers have been ripped off by hundreds of pounds by these illegally fixed fuel surcharges over the last few years. But when will we get our money back? We won't, and the fuel surcharges still exist, so as it stands the ruling makes little difference to us.
And in the interests of fairness Virgin should be required to refund the fuel surcharges from when they were brought in until when they informed the OFT (ie when they came clean). This would also act as an incentive to encourage companies colluding in illegal price-fixing to come clean as soon as possible to minimise their losses.

  • 32.
  • At 11:47 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Ray Rodden wrote:

Did Branson 'sucker' British airways into this?

We now of past disputes between Virgin and BA, looks like Branson believes the old adage 'revenge is a dish best served cold'

He He

  • 33.
  • At 11:51 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Tony Stanney wrote:

Now that the airline industry has been dealt with how about turning our attention to the banking sector. Whilst I realise that they are being rightly castigated for overcharging, I am at a loss to understand how they all overcharge for the same offences by the same amount. There are continuous meetings between the banks for various legitimate reasons but surely their charging policies are more than coincidence. Why stop at BA? Lets give the banks a proper look.

  • 34.
  • At 11:51 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John Drennan wrote:

Finally BA's hubris from Boardroom to Boarding Gate has caught up with them and I hope this fine hurts them mightily.

I was once proud to fly BA and used them as my default airline. Now after years of swingeing service cutbacks, stiff-arming customer services and overall un-reliability, I fly them no more.

Anyone casting their mind back to the days of BA's Dirty Tricks campaign will see that a pattern of deceipt and arrogance has followed this airline all the way through it's recent history. Now it's payback time. Or more precisely - pay-OUT time.

  • 35.
  • At 11:52 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • phil rule wrote:

I spend a considerable amount of my time driving people as a chauffeur to and from Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Taking into account BA is the biggest airline operating from those two points, pro rata the complaints about BA far outweigh the complaints of any other airline. BA used to advertise as "The world's favourite airline". Not any more Willie Walsh. I for one will shed no tears if BA collapses. It is now a national disgrace. Perhaps this government should take it over again and then hopefully watch them both sink. BA shareholders have their hands on dirty money.

  • 36.
  • At 11:52 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • mhusen wrote:

Another fine example of the great British justice system, customers/consumers are overcharged bucket loads along with awful British service & The Treasury gets to keep the "fines" which are then lost in the maze of misspent public funds. The customer/consumer always ends up a loser.
"That's another "fines" mess you got me into Olly(or should that be Dick Branson)"

  • 37.
  • At 12:03 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Devi Jankowicz wrote:

Well, Carnegie and the other Victorian capitalists founded libraries, hospitals, and engaged in other charitable initiatives after grinding the faces of the poor on their way to riches and honours. I wonder if the Bransons and the faceless Board members at BA will feel the same blend of guilt and bare-faced cheek? Somehow I doubt it.

  • 38.
  • At 12:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • martin ohana wrote:

Branson once again is BA's nemesis . I'm sure Freddie Laker would have approved . Smooth move but nobody likes a grass .

  • 39.
  • At 12:09 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Alan Coxon wrote:

Is this whistle blowing, or is it a case of setting up the competion to drop them in it? I do not have a lot of faith in either busuiness and feel that Virgin should be paying for it's indescretion also, by perhaps contributing a similar amount as BA's fine to charities of BA's choice and without receiving tax allowances for this!

  • 40.
  • At 12:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

So lets me get this straight - Virgin collude in the discussions on fuel surcharges , make vast amounts of money from them , betray BA , escape any penalty at all (quite why they should escape completely has not been made clear - perhaps the bearded one is 'comping' the OFT) and then get to keep the money they made ?? British Justice strikes again .

  • 41.
  • At 12:15 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David James wrote:

BA and Virgin are both at fault although the latter did come clean and that should be recognised. But for Virgin to pay nothing while BA dish out millions in fines is harsh! Whisltleblowing is needed as a weapon against corporate mis-deeds but a fine of £35 million (10% of the BA fines) would be a worthwhile token gesture and not discourage others from coming forward in the future! And an apology seems the least one coud expect of a company with Virgin's focus on Public Relations.

  • 42.
  • At 12:17 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

This isn't the fist time BA has been involved in unfair competition, once resulting in a public apology to Richard Branson.

About time Virgin got their own back on BA..

BA has a tendency to stoop really low, particularly preventing other airlines, including Virgin to 'take off'. I agree that using the letters 'BA' is far better than actually using the word British.

  • 43.
  • At 12:21 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Eco Conscious wrote:

I really couldn't care less what BA and Virgin get up to. Stop flying and it won't matter what they charge - and the polar bears will be safe.

  • 44.
  • At 12:24 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jim McDermott wrote:

I'm getting tired of hearing that Branson/Virgin are the plucky little ones defending themselves against RA's bully boy tactics. B's used every opportunity to stick it to BA since he went into competition with them. Would anyone be surprised if he entered into this agreement just so he could snitch and put his knife between BA's shoulder-blades once more?

  • 45.
  • At 12:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Van Blanc wrote:

I agree with Robert Peston and Stephen - Virgin should be punished.
Indeed, I have heard conjecture that BA might have been lured into its arrangement with Virgin and then dumped in the mire out of revenge for past spats between the two parties. However, I repeat this without prejudice and, personally ,I find it difficult to believe that the nice Mr. Branson would get involved in such a Machiavellian plot.
Despite BA's current problems, I have some sympathy with it as the UK's National Carrier ,as it has to compete unaided with other EC airlines which, against the EC's own free trade regulations, have been kept up in the air by massive financial aid from their own Governments.In this situation, there must be temptation for such EC Countries not to look too closely at agreements entered into by those airlines which they have funded, in case they discover that the "felony has been compounded".

  • 46.
  • At 12:31 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Alan Verrall wrote:

It is not only the fuel surcharge price fixing with BA, the authorities should now start investigating ticket prices with the "One World" airline alliance which appears to be another "big boys" cartel.

  • 47.
  • At 12:34 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David Lord wrote:

I still believe some kind of price fixing is going on, and not only between these two companies. I have recently taken a flight to Moscow from Heathrow, a flight of about 4 hours. The cost, Economy buying online with the two competing British based airlines was £812 & £810 return for the same dates. The 2 airlines were BMI & BA. Firstly this is a very high price for a 4 hour flight economy ticket (bought up to 3 weeks before) and the 2 prices seem very similar!! Suspicious? I think so.

  • 48.
  • At 12:37 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Here we go.....another fine for a major company. The water industry recently received a number of fines too.
What happens to these fines? Shouldn't they go back to the customers that have been "Price-fixed"?

  • 49.
  • At 12:38 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Matt Reid wrote:

I still find it remarkable that for all the mudslinging that Virgin have pushed at BA over the years (well, Branson in the main), that BA worked with Virgin on such a serious breach of anti competitive pratice.

I think back three years to the time when BA suffered anti competitive slanging (ie Concorde 'buy out' block accusations by Branson). Of course the slanging goes back much much further, not giving slots up at Heathrow, etc.

Now, BA get into dirty tricks with Virgin in a pretty clear way.

Virgin benefit from this over the time that they collude.

Then - the knife goes into the colluders back as they are turned over to the powers that be.

Virgin offer excellent service and have been a healthy competitor to an often slow and ignorant BA.

But it turns my stomach that Virgin then play dirty to consumers disadvantage, yet they can fear no reproach.

I for one will make a point to avoid Virgin flights - this is one step that just plain (plane?) stinks.

Matt Reid, London

  • 50.
  • At 12:49 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • paul m wrote:

It's all well and good BA getting a slap on the wrists and Virgin getting away with it (despite being blatantly and equally evil) but whose pockets do the funds raised from the fine end up lining? Not the customers who paid the ridiculous charges in the first place I can tell you.

This makes the DoJ and OFT equally as evil and they need to be seen as just that.

  • 51.
  • At 12:52 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

I hope no one is thinking they are a winner. Although Virgin escapes a regulatory fine they have lost consumer and shareholder confidence. Both these companies have embarrassed Britain. The individuals involved on both sides must not escape the punishment of the law. Given the scale of this, losing their jobs is not enough. For the sake of the thousands of people employed by these companies, I really hope both companies survive this storm otherwise there will only be more casualites.

  • 52.
  • At 12:56 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • ACL wrote:

BA has just been fined for price fixing but Willie Walsh still insists that passengers have not been overcharged because fuel surcharges were "a legitimate way of recovering costs". He must think that his passengers are idiots without any facilities for logic.

Anyway, an apology from Branson is not enough. Virgin should not profit from 17 month's price fixing so I hope they are punished with a fine (perhaps smaller than BA's).

  • 53.
  • At 12:58 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • rodney burton wrote:

Revenge is a dish best served cold!

  • 54.
  • At 12:59 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John Andrews wrote:

Given how Virgin companies advertise themseklcves as the customer's friend it seems a great PR error not to apologise for their part in the fixing. I heard Walsh apologise for BA on Today in an interview this morning. Where was Branson?

  • 55.
  • At 01:04 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Charles wrote:

Is Virgin really getting away with robbing the bank by keeping its own ill gotten gains and grassing up BA? As for the three users above of the expression 'Scot free', I wonder if there's a subliminal message there! English Airways?

  • 56.
  • At 01:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Ken Haile wrote:

What is wrong with a fixed/agreed? surcharge; if it has to be made: surely the fuel costs are comparable for the same type of aircraft or journey. Different surcharges would be attacked as being unfair??

  • 57.
  • At 01:06 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Simon Hansford wrote:

And for a crime of this magnitude, is a public apology sufficient? The decent, honest and honorable thing to do, would be to donate a similar amount as BA's fine to charity.

  • 58.
  • At 01:07 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Warren Sparkes wrote:

Quite simply, what would be the incentive for other companies to 'blow the whistle' if Virgin Atlantic had been treated equally guilty and fined?

  • 59.
  • At 01:11 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • J Bradshaw wrote:

I agree with the article, and it seems that Virgin were happy to go along with this scam until they decided it would be in their commercial interest to hurt BA in the pocket. Shameful.

  • 60.
  • At 01:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Dev Sen wrote:

It is alright to fine these airlines but my question is who is going to get this money?
passengers paid the money & it should be returned to them. if it is ad-min nightmare then it should go to a charity. Surely not to govt.

  • 61.
  • At 01:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Brian Folgate wrote:

Is this Britain shooting itself in the foot again ?

It probably goes on all over the world.

Britain it seems loves to kill off its industries.

No wonder we now have no car industry, not much engineering industry etc etc.

Soon we probably won't have much truly British airline industry and BAE systems will be severely damaged by the "outrage" about the Saudi contract (when probably all the American, French, Russian competitors do the same sort of thing).The real "winners" of all this so-called BBC investigatory revealing, sensationalist reporting are the FOREIGN COMPETITORS.

TESCO, BARCLAYS, HBOS etc better look out - most successful British industries get destroyed by British media.

Of course lots of things are wrong with BA (as they were with Rover etc) and ginger groups etc are needed to keep companies on their toes, to keep an eye on poor or dodgy management (pity it was not done earlier with Equitable Life) and competition is to be totally encouraged - but time and again foreign companies prosper and true UK companies are systematically worn down and destroyed.

My first Golf when the Golf was a new model was a total disaster (and I know for sure mine was not the only one and the service response was very poor indeed) but did the media or the then equivalent of Top Gear give blaring publicity to the problems the German company was having at the time - bad publicity then at that stage of the transition from the Beetle would probably have killed off VW.

Every single problem BMC, Rover etc had was blasted all over the pages and the air.

Sometimes the products/management etc are of course inferior, but we should try to encourage, help our companies to improve their performance without destroying them with sensationalist media frenzy.

  • 62.
  • At 01:14 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jim McDermott wrote:

Plucky, honest Branson against corrupt bully boy BA? Come of it! Branson cherry-picked the most profitable routes and has been playing that David and Goliath refrain ever since. This latest episode is just another stage in his strategy, though one in which he appears to have stooped even lower than usual.

  • 63.
  • At 01:15 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

I can't help thinking that BA and Virgin deserve each other. Branson will now be known in the trade as a grass - one wrong move in the future and he'll be shopped in turn. The whole industry looks sick when the punters are left wondering who they mistrust least...

  • 64.
  • At 01:15 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • al faux wrote:

Could we please stop BA from using the word "British" in their name? They have been an embarrassment ever since they were "privatised". First they somehow kept their Heathrow slots, then they bullied Virgin, now they are caught cheating. What a shower.

  • 65.
  • At 01:18 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • guill1946 wrote:

British Airways are no strangers to dubious commercial practices. They promote heavily their air miles programme. My wife and I fly two or three times a year to South America with them. Many times I have tried to book premier economy and upgrade to Club using miles (one of the services offered) but succeeded only once and for one ticket, not both. Eventually I decided to check every day of the year (they fly to Buenos Aires 5 times a week). The option was available only for six days within the year, i.e 1.64% of the time. I'm sure the same applies to their offer to book seats using miles. It's probably easier on less busy routes (a friend of mine has the same complaint about trying to use miles flying to the US), but then they should make that clear. A few months ago they offered a free ticket for your partner if you booked yours,a 'special promotion' for holders of the BA Amex card. I tried to book tickets to Vienna but was refused. I wrote to complain, had no reply. I'm glad that chickens are coming home to roost.

  • 66.
  • At 01:23 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Hywel Thomas wrote:

The BBC Q&A section claims BA could have been fined up to 10% of it's £8.5bn turnover.

Where then does the £121.5m figure come from? Obviously there is a need for large fines as a warning to would-be price fixers but this seems huge.

Is this calculated as the incremental profits to BA from price-fixing or is it a OFT 'finger in the air assessment' of a large deterrent fine?

  • 67.
  • At 01:24 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I agree absolutely with the main sentiment of the article: it does seem unfair that BA get punished so harshly and Virgin walk away completely free when they were both guilty of exactly the same thing. After all, I'm fairly sure it's not possible for just one company to be involved in price fixing on their own.

However, what really gets me is Willie Walsh's statement "Anti-competitive behaviour is entirely unacceptable and we condemn it unreservedly ... However, it is deeply regrettable that some individuals ignored our policy."

"Some individuals"? Who on earth does he think he is kidding? Are we really expected to believe that senior management at BA knew nothing of what was going on? Surely they must be aware of the prices they and their competitors are charging? The idea that this was just some rogue junior executives at BA acting on their own is about as believable as the tooth fairy.

  • 68.
  • At 01:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Liam Nagle wrote:

How about TfL next? They and their chosen partners operate a cartel controlling access to the major employment and commercial centre in the UK. They use their power to penalise truly independant competition via congestion and parking charges, and subsidise the cartel's own services at their competitor's expense.
Even if you use their monopoly transport services, you get hit by unreasonable penalties if you don't also buy into their Oystercard scheme, and by proposed fare increases to reduce overcrowding on the attrocious commuter network.

  • 69.
  • At 01:29 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Geoff barrington wrote:

It is a total disgrace for Virgin to get away scot free and let BA take the flak. Virgin it seems was as guilt as BA in the collusion. At BA it seems that this was by a few managers operting outside the law and at arm's length from the Board. I somehow doubt given the small organisation at Virgin that this was at the case and the Board were aware of what was going on. The OFT puts a record fine on BA due to seriousness of crime but the equally guilty party not only does not pay anything but even appears to apologise to anyone. Virgin has abused its position, its customers and made the law look stupid.

  • 70.
  • At 01:29 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Corporate Boy wrote:

Oh stop whining. If you can compare prices between BA and VA then do you not think that the airlines can do the same and adjust their prices to maximise their profits accordingly? And as for the suggestion of giving the fine to the shareholders, deary, deary me. Who do you think owns the company, and therefore received the profits from the unfair price fixing in the first place? God you thickies wind me up.

  • 71.
  • At 01:34 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Caroline Clarke wrote:

Like other members of the public I too would very much like to know what happens to the monies which will be paid in fines by BA. Who gets the money and what happens to it?

I am no fan of BA, having been "dumped" by them in Abuja at 3am in the morning and left to fend with no luggage etc. when my husband was taken ill on a flight from Cape Town to Heathrow.

Caroline Clarke

  • 72.
  • At 01:35 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

I raise a glass to Virgin for skewering BA for once and in memory of all those airlines undermined previously that had to surrender routes to the unfair competition of corporate monoliths who never wanted the travelling public to have a choice: Laker, Dan Air, British Caledonian, Air Europe, just to name a few.....

  • 73.
  • At 01:36 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Paul W wrote:

Isn't there a bigger issue here?

Companies are here to make money, which is subtly different from being competitive. In environments where competition is cut throat then competition in theory gives customers a good deal by eroding companies margins. The weak fail and in theory the good have a very low near nil profit margin thus benefitting end consumers.

In reality competitors have, as in this case, explicit anti-competition agreements to ensure they both make healthy profits, or more tacit non-communicated agreements between themselves to ensure they make profits. Banking being the current example in that they all know they have to have the same overdraft penalty fees as if any abolished them then all of them would be forced to abolish them or risk losing customers, so hence a status quo emerges which means their customers get screwed a bit more.

Having said all that the big problem seems to be the Government obsession and schmoozing of big business when they should have a critical eye on it and intervene where they suspect there may be evidence of anti-competitive practices existing.

Finally, if anyone really thinks Mr Branson and by association Virgin are a good brand then they are probably over 40 and remember him as being the young upstart that shook up the airlines. As for anyone under 40 they probably think of Virgin as being the comapny associated with failure on coca cola, trains and more recently cable TV.

  • 74.
  • At 01:38 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Richard Zaltzman wrote:

The price fixing in question is clearly in breach of anti-competition law, but frankly, how much impact did it actually have on passengers? Assuming that BA and Virgin would have passed on a proportion of the £60 without having worked that number out together, passengers have probably lost out £20 - 30 per ticket. On a £600 ticket, mainly paid for on company expenses, that's hardly worth screaming about, and does it really justify such a large fine?

Put that in the context of the total lack of competition on the railways, and the outrageous fares they charge, I'd much rather the OFT got their teeth into First, Connex Virgin trains etc, rather than the airline industry, which is, in the main, genuniely competitive.

  • 75.
  • At 01:38 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John Band wrote:

The point is, all the airlines put fares up when fuel prices rise - and the consumer pays. Though it was illegal of BA to co-ordinate the rise, it would have happened anyway. Because BA started the co-ordination and Virgin blew the whistle, Virgin gets off. Altogether an excellent piece of revenge by Virgin for BA's dirty tricks against Virgin which the courts only partially remedied. I remain a very happy Virgin gold card holder.

  • 76.
  • At 01:42 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • William wrote:

I think that Virgin should of also been fined as on three of the five times that they had talks with BA they called them.

Also some people seem to be confused. This chase has nothing to do with if fuel charges are illegal. Every major air line has them. This is case is about the fact that Virgin and BA told each other when they where going to change them.

  • 77.
  • At 01:44 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • J Kazer wrote:

Perhaps Virgin instigated the collusion with the aim of later providing a whistleblower and so costing a rival much cash ?

  • 78.
  • At 01:48 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Bill wrote:

It takes two people acting equally to collude.

Richard Branson was Chairman of Virgin Atlantic throughout the time this collusion took place.

Will Sir Richard now resign?

  • 79.
  • At 01:48 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Ian Gardner wrote:

I think this misses the bigger point - fuel surcharges are a scam on the part of the airlines.
Normally when a supplier enters into a contract to deliver at fixed price they have to do just that.
It should not be possible to levy an additional cost afterwards.
It is up to the airlines to correctly price their tickets (and hedge if they want, e.g. using the energy futures markets)

  • 80.
  • At 01:50 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Simon NC wrote:

BA's treatment is unfair. I can think of no route on which BA and VS have a duopoly so a third carrier was always available to the passenger. Also, why no fine for VS ? They're just as culpable and their whistleblowing smacks of just a way of stitching up their arch enemy. I sincerely hope that BA has something on them.

This is such an obvious Virgin "dirty trick" that BA deserve what they get for the stupidity of their executives. But what really intrigues me is that the Banks can get away with all charging £12 for late payments on credit cards - and other customer "misdemeanours". Are their cost bases all identical? I don't think so - but the OFT is incredibly lenient on this. Yet a lot more of the British public use banks than fly on the big birds. Which bank executive is going to blow that particular whistle before ending up in BA's position?!

I'm interested in the quality of the management decisions here - so the two companies got together to "rig" the market and set about co-ordinating their activities - did they think it wouldn't get out?

Did they not look at the business risk (to both their reputations) or was the potential extra profit enough to accept the risk?

  • 83.
  • At 02:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Mike Thompson wrote:

Is there nothing that Branson will not stoop to? The whistleblower provision of immunity is well-founded but it does enable the most unscrupulous to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds. I would have faith in Virgin's probity had the whistleblowing taken place immediately after the first collusive meeting-not 17 months down the line. That rewards Virgin too much.I think they should face penalties for their continued non-reporting of collusion for the subsequent 16 months after the first dealings. As it is,they have gained the advantages of price-rigging and severly damaged a rival into the bargain.What happened to the old principle that criminals should not gain from their criminality? We would not expect any of the Great Train Robbers to keep their stolen gains if they "co-operated" so why should Virgin?
This is the same Richard Branson whose business career started by the criminal evasion of taxation of records? So much for the cuddly,beard and sweater image

  • 84.
  • At 02:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • chris g wrote:

It's ok that both have been fined, but generally when will the petrol companies ever been fined?...all charging in the range of 95 and 97p per litre? you cannot call it secret arrangement anymore as it is so obvious...but no one is doing anything against it...for years and years

  • 85.
  • At 02:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Phil Taylor wrote:

This case highlights several serious deficiencies under competition law and policy which the government and OFT need to address:

1. The market structure of only two UK carriers flying to the States is a product of government policy and should be altered as soon as possible (this is true of other routes). A less concentrated market would reduce the likelihood that collusion, tacit or otherwise would recur and increase competitive intensity, which at the moment appears feeble.

2. The leniency policy can be gamed by potential colluders, so that a colluder in full knowledge of the leniency policy can create a cartel and then whistleblow. Hence the initiating colluder wins twice through higher prices and damaged competition. This injustice must be addressed by full leniency only in exceptional cases.

3. The government needs to ensure that consumers benefit following their loss, the fining companies redirects the benefits from companies to all taxpayers. The OFT should have the power to order refunds to previous customers.

4. How is the coordination with the US DOJ being handled, is there not a danger of double jeopardy here?

  • 86.
  • At 02:18 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Syd Thomson wrote:

The OFT should br renamed to OUT (Office of Unfair Treatment) in this case. What happened to justice? It beggars the question that the OFT are getting a backhander from Virgin!

  • 87.
  • At 02:23 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Paul/C. wrote:

It takes 2 to tango yet only BA get punished. Totally unfair. I hope Virgin gets what's coming to them soon. No other airline will ever trust them now.

  • 88.
  • At 02:24 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Yinka Talabi wrote:

What a way to do business with Virgin... stab in the back.

Right now we are undoubtedly seeing an overly expensive flight service in the UK. Sound similar to other industries? I would suggest that any fine levied be paid to the whistleblower. That way we will see companies actively policing each other. 'Free' profit!

I would also suggest that the gov't should get actively involved in ensuring UK consumers are not paying beyond the odds in comparison to those in other countries. That is as bad as price fixing in my eyes.

  • 90.
  • At 02:30 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jean Auroux wrote:

If Virgin did collude with BA and the infringement decision of the OFT finds this on the evidence then although they may receive 100% immunity from OFT fines they can still be sued for damages through the courts or Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT).

This means consumers being prepared to join a class action suit if you were a victim of Virgin's (rather than BA's)fixed surcharges - in the CAT or UK Courts. I dare say some of the US class action firms that have recently set up in London will be publicising this very shortly.

  • 91.
  • At 02:31 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Douglas Johnstone wrote:

Within the business community Richard Branson has a certain reputation. I understand that Sir Richard taught Michael O'Leary much of his trade. It's just that Michael O'Leary didn't attend the "Smile Whilst You Stab" lesson.

  • 92.
  • At 02:40 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Rob Grant wrote:

To all those people (justifiably) complaining that there is no refund forthcoming I suggest they act rather than just moan. Send in your claim to the airlines and if you get no joy use the small claims procedure through the County Court, which is simple and cheap.

  • 93.
  • At 02:41 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • dan adams wrote:

Why did it take Virgin 17 months to blow that whistle? and what happened to that extra revenue earned while trying to find the whistle?

  • 94.
  • At 02:41 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

So, Richard Branson shopped BA ! Undoubtedly he has caused them commercial damage and he has used his judgement to limit the damage to Virgin. Branson has played the game well, and given the history of Virgin's relationship with BA it would be naive to bet on any other outcome.

  • 95.
  • At 02:43 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Lewis wrote:

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are fantastic airlines to fly with, without a doubt the best in the world. I have used their services once every three months from the USA to the UK for the last 5 years. Upon the discovery of this fraudulent behaviour by both companies may I have my fuel surcharge money back please? I estimate it'll be around $2000. Then all is forgiven.

  • 96.
  • At 02:52 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David Simons wrote:

It is about time that BA got caught out. They have always put the customer last and trod on any other airline around them. After allegidely trying to put Virgin out of business with problems with fuelling (taken from Richard Bransons autobiography) why shouldn`t Virgin come out on top.

  • 97.
  • At 03:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Paul Rogers wrote:

I assume passengers have been overcharged. So the Government(s) levy fines of £350M. I bet this means a big fat bonus for some greedy or corrupt Civil Servant.

Of course, the money should be repaid to the customers who were over charged otherwise it is just another stealth tax.

Is this 'Tax' is a deductible expense for corporation tax purposes? If it isn't, Mr Brown will get even more money to squander.

If it is deductible, Mr Brown pays about 30% of the money going to the USA.

So it adds up as follow:
Deductible: G Brown gets 121M minus 30% of 350M a net £16M for the UK Treasury with £229M going to the USA Government at a cost on the Balance of payments. Not a smart deal, nor one worthy of a bonus!

Non deductible: Actually, it's hard to make it non deductible. BA borrow the money to pay the fine and their UK Corporation tax is reduced by 30% of the interest charges.

Either way, BA shareholders (mostly UK Pension funds) and passengers will have to divi-up a lot of cash for G.B. to squander.

  • 98.
  • At 03:11 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Marc wrote:

I am somewhat surprised with regards to the anti-BA sentiment suggested here by many.

Clearly, what has happened is totally unacceptable, and BA has paid the price - rightly so! However, it is also clear from the report that Virgin are EQUALLY at fault, initiating communication on more than one occasion. How people can accuse one airline more than another is beyond me.

Whilst BRITISH Airways have certainly had their problems in recent years, as a British citizen, I will continue to support and use them where possible. BA have had to compete, unaided, since 9/11 in a far from level playing field. The vast majority of BA profits are generated from US routes. US airlines have been protected under Chapt 11, have had their pension liabilities unburdened..... the list goes on. The sometimes poor performance we hear about must surely be a by-product of the necessary cuts to survive in an environment like this. You can't have it all, and at the end of the day, who is consistently better than BA? No-one in my opinion.

I am sorry to see BA behave like this, but it is clear that it results from the actions of very few people within BA. On the basis of the other 50000 odd people that work for the airline, I am unwilling to welcome their demise or wish them ill!

  • 99.
  • At 03:17 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Steve Harvey wrote:

I fly long hauls regulary with BA and always check Prices with Virgin on direct flights for comparison. I beleiev this judgement will make no diferance at all, infact just checked Price for London-Miami 1st week in November and there is under £50 bwetween the two.

  • 100.
  • At 03:19 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • lynxy wrote:

Obviously a sting, how naive can BA be to fall for it, they have loathed each other for years and Branson must have been laughing like a drain! Well done Virgin.

  • 101.
  • At 03:22 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Simon Maynard wrote:

This incident shows quite clearly what anti-trust legislation is all about; one company using it as a stick with which to beat their rivals with. Why should Virgin enter into such an agreement and then blow the whistle if not to simply stich up BA?

  • 102.
  • At 03:24 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Callum wrote:

BA are totally stupid at letting themselves be "stitched" up in this way. As a former employee, BA need to return to the good old days and reinforce their standards and their brand with immediate effect, and lead the way in standards. I am totally appalled that BA are taking all of the flack, and regardless of who told tales, BA and Virgin were both involved and both responsible, and should both be punished, there should be no exemption for perpetrating the same "crime" - absolutely no exceptions.

  • 103.
  • At 03:24 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Ian Kemmish wrote:

It strikes me that the doctrine of "corporate leniency" offers a tremendous way to get your competitors into trouble. Just start the conversation off the record, move it into email or recorded phone calls for a while, then blow the whistle.

Far be it from me to suggest that anything like this might happen in the continuing, entirely above-the-belt, entirely honourable gentlemen's scuffle between BA and VA, but it must represent a terrible temptation for at least some ethically challenged executives....

  • 104.
  • At 03:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Bob Fletcher wrote:

Am I the only one who finds Richard Branson's bearded perennial underdog personna, nauseating? Not as a result of this incident but also with the recent spat with BSkyB in mind.


  • 105.
  • At 03:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Afeez wrote:

I stopped flying BA/Virgin, between UK and Nigeria since i discovered that no matter what parameters you input, their two websites return same fare to Nigeria and it is usually almost double what Air france, KLM charges , I think the Nigerian government should also fine them for forming cartel charging £600 to Nigeria when you can get a 14 day return to kenya with hotel thrown in for £400 'Oyinbo' scamming Blacks

  • 106.
  • At 03:27 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Tony Brookes wrote:

It is extremely hard in very large companies to keep up ethical standards, especially when politicians lie through their teeth and refuse to carry out promisies. I suppose it is down to the HR staff to select the right people but in this instance it seems there were only a couple of allegedly bad eggs in a very large work force. I feel sorry for BA as the customer has probably not lost out by this action - customer loss being the raison d'etre of the OFT. With BA desperate to increase its income it must have seemed like a propitious opportunity to raise some more income.

  • 107.
  • At 03:29 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Nigel Hanley wrote:

So Richard Branson once again gets away scot free.

Does Virgin actually need to use fuel since the level of sanctimoniuos clap trap and hot air produced by its founder would enable almost the entire population of the United Kingdom to be wafted across the Atlantic on the amount of hot air produced.

Yes Virgin should have been fined - maybe not he same size as BA since it did whistleblow. I thought that was what the principle of equitable conduct was all about.

Secondly - why was the whislte blown - did BA not agree to a particular Branson wheeze and he thought he could get away with yet another of his malicious and underhand business tactics that he reserves for his competitors.

the whole thing stinks of the pot calling the kettle etc.

  • 108.
  • At 03:32 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Geoff Roberts wrote:

Okay, so BA and Virgin have had their hands in one another's pockets. One gets fined, one doesn't. Does it really matter who gets fined and how much? Who gets the money? The Treasury, of course.

WHO PAYS? Us of course, who else! That IS, or should be, important.

  • 109.
  • At 03:32 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • phil wrote:

Given the choice, every corporation will attempt to rip off their customers and collude with their competitors to maintain market share. We see it in the banking industry, the energy industry, the insurance industry, the airlines, carmakers, you name it. Having made a pile of cash, Branson masterly played the game and took BA to the cleaners. All very squalid and bitchy but thats why capitalism cant be trusted to deliver social benefits, they are only in it for themselves at the end of the day. A shame the "regulators" are always asleep at the wheel.

  • 110.
  • At 03:33 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Ajibowu wrote:

I stopped flying BA/Virgin between the UK and Nigeria long ago when i discovered that no matter the parameters you imput, their two websites always return the same fare to the penny, and always almost twice the quotes from Air france/KLM.
We shall ask the Nigerian Government to fine them for charging Nigerians about £600 between UK and Nigeria when you can get fights to South Africa for £400 with 7 day hotel thrown in.Ann UK Nigeria flights are always overbooked . British companies scamming Nigeria(who is the 419 cartel?). and of course Richard Branson visits Nigeria decked in Nigerian attires (patronising) while impoverishing it's people further

  • 111.
  • At 03:41 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Chris Pannell wrote:

Instead of fining BA huge amounts of money which they will pass on to the customers, the regulators should impose a condition that the surcharge cannot exceed 5 quid, which is what it was before the cartel started invoking green issues to cheat us. The should impose this on Vergin too, so that they do not get to run with the sheep and hunt with the wolves, as they are doing now (because Branson's PR machine is running smooth as ever).

  • 112.
  • At 03:41 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Dave Aitken wrote:

Remembering the previous history between BA and Virgin, could this be a case of revenge being a dish best served cold?

If BA operates in Europe and the fine is a 148 million in the states why is it a paltry 112 million in Europe where more people are ripped off? Quite why we indulge our 2nd rate companies is beyond me.

Virgin are a 2nd rate company as well of course. However getting all moralistically relavitist about this is wrong. BA has a monopoly position at Heathrow and has been frankly all but let off here.

I trust the Texans will not easily forgive the preventable accident BP killed 15 workers with. It is time we adopted the US view of white collar crime and anti trust behaviour.

  • 114.
  • At 03:49 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Chris C wrote:

I am very disgusted with Virgin's underhand tactics in the whole episode. Is this Branson's way of getting back at BA after the whole fiasco with Lord King?

Surely, Virgin, if they conspired with BA are equally guilty and should pay the same penalties as BA. The fact that they were the whistleblower should not make them immune to prosecution.

Maybe the regulator should review the case and consider what actions should be taken against Virgin. As for the great British public, they should vote with their feet, but I doubt they will. I personally will not be using Virgin again if I can help it....

  • 115.
  • At 03:56 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Abraham wrote:

British Airways have been doing this sort of thing for years. When not trying to rip off the customer with additional charges they are removing features of the service or staff and still claim "Safety Is Their Priority" right after making a profit and keeping certain parts of the airline sweet.
BA will die like all the great dinasaurs and be burried. Maybe in a few years something useful may come out of BA. They are overmanned, leaky, rusty and clapped out and do not deserve our support. All they are interested is larger discounts for their corporate owners and 1st class travel for their crews and management.

  • 116.
  • At 03:58 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Martin Ellis wrote:

The guilty should be punished both Virgin and BA, for a whistleblower the fine should be less. Given the history between Branson and BA there is always the thought that Branson makes it his aim to "stich BA up again". This diminishes Branson as a person.

  • 117.
  • At 03:58 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • vsn wrote:

Fuel surcharge - a scam to make ticket prices look more attractive.

Every time oil prices go up we see fuel surcharges going up - but never down when oil prices fall.

Fuel surcharges have little to do with fuel costs and airlines make huge profits from them.

But even if there were no price-fixing, would there be competition on the basis of fuel surcharge?

Ticket prices are remarkably similar between airlines anyway, and this is not by chance. The same would have happened with the fuel surcharge, price-fixing or not.

  • 118.
  • At 03:59 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David Dreghorn wrote:

It very much sounds as if Virgin set up BA. Virgin were just as bad but because they reported BA, Virgin get a pat on the back or at the least get away with doing what BA did. Tip for future businesses: If you want you competition to lose money, get involved with an ilegal activity, then report them.

Sorry, but justice was not done and I think it was a case of Virgin getting involved to set up BA. In the real world world, that would be entrapment.

  • 119.
  • At 04:04 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Doug wrote:

Re posting 5 from Stephen.

He says
>>But I don't see what's wrong with agreeing with your competitor not to undercut them...supermarkets do it all the time.

I wonder what he knows that I don't. I don't recall competition investigations discovering this, and do wonder if he actually has any evidence for his interesting assertion?

I'd certainly like to hear about it if he has. It would put a new slant on Tesco's current "price war" advertising, for instance, and on what Asda regularly claim.

Oh, and I have no connection with any supermarket chain, but some knowledge of how big business actually works.

  • 120.
  • At 04:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Frazer wrote:

Surely there must be a level of compensation to the customers who were impacted by this collusion. The level of fine may hit BA but it does not help or assit the customers of Virgin or BA who have been the victims of this collusion. It is clear today that both airlines continue with the practise if not in collusion at least in the deciet of fogged prices

  • 121.
  • At 04:11 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

For afficionados of game theory there's a nice "prisoner's dilemma" going on here. If BA and Virgin both keep quiet about these arrangements then they do quite nicely. But they do even better (relatively) if they grass up their rival and see them hit by swingeing fines, while not being prosecuted themselves. So the temptation to squeal to the authorities can be irresistable, hence the policy works in killing these sorts of arrangements by creating a set of incentives that renders them unstable.

  • 122.
  • At 04:12 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jim McDermott wrote:

Presumably the fuel that sent Branson's galactic wannabee space shuttle off in a thousand directions last week (along with three unfortunate employees) wasn't surcharged?

I think British Aways is a great airline and when one is stuck in strange lands it ia always a pleasure to see that faded red white and blue on the tail fin as you sit in the departure lounge. What a pitty they had to pay a fine for doing what almost every other company across all industries does on a weekly basis. By the way, who will profit from this fine? Not, I fear the customer. As for virgin, why don't british companies start working together, there is enough room for both in this market.

  • 124.
  • At 04:20 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Charles R wrote:

Mr Branson proves again what a nice man he is - a grass: blew the whistle to damage his competitor and maintain his snowhite image. I for one can't stand his falseness - and will never fly his airline again.

  • 125.
  • At 04:22 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Couldn't happen to a nicer company.

I for one will have nothing to do with BA as a customer, which is the greatest reason I can find not to purchase shares in them.

Within a few years BA will surely cease to exist in its current form. Once the asset strippers move in the employees from boardroom to check in will get what's coming to them.

  • 126.
  • At 04:39 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Murrough wrote:

I really can't see anything wrong in this so shoot me down. It was not as if they were coluding on the base fares, but a fuel surcharge brought about by governments coluding in much more detail on all kinda of things like fighting illegal wars. Now Add to this, customer supplier colusions on European Gas supplies, US Heating Oil and how to profit from a Hurricane and other such things. Virgin and BA are not just competitors but also customers of each other when times arise. If they all announced a fully meshed code share, then what.

So it seems its ok to profit from these ill-gotten gains as long as you are first to blow the whistle. Or at least that is the message that the OFT is giving today. It seems utterly ridiculous that Virgin will not face a penny of penalty for agreeing with their competitors for 17 months before making a decision. If they truly believed what was happening was "so wrong" then why not act sooner?

  • 128.
  • At 04:42 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John Peters wrote:

I'm pretty disgusted with both airlines and agree an apology is due from Virgin.

However, to balance the argument, BA's conduct is pervasive in almost everything they do if you look closely enough. BA has only been saved from their own institutional arrogance by a misguided love affair we have with (what used to be) our 'national airline'.

I hope more people will now see through the cosy marketing image, and boycott BA and their overpricing, industrial action, indifferent staff, delays, poor customer relations......

  • 129.
  • At 04:45 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

I remember back in school, the telltale clue for cheating was whether your answers matched your neighbour's, right and wrong. Since then, I've noticed the same clues all across the airline industry. I suppose all carriers have similar costs, but the differences still amount to mere pennies in most cases. Same with the oil industry, same with the banks, such in the UK, such here in Canada. My point, I guess, is a two-parter.
1) How can one be surprised by the news that two airlines collaborated? 2) Why do we need whistleblowers before becoming suspicious? I suspect the answer to that second one might be defamation suits.

  • 130.
  • At 05:08 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Michael OBrien wrote:

I agree with Greg Heath. BA has become an awful, uncaring airline, seemingly committed to self destruction and they show no loyalty to their loyal customers. Customers who are regarded just as Cash Cows. This scam comes as no surprise to me.

Another BA scam, I feel, is their air miles programme. OK they give the miles, but try using them at any convenient time and they will nearly always say no seats available!

I used to be a very frequent traveller with BA but I have sent back my Gold Card and now use any other airline.

  • 131.
  • At 05:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Ashish wrote:

17 months of non-competing collusion behaviour? We all know BA get dirty and nasty. But Virgin's involvment is shocking!! On one hand Branson creates a huge PR for Virgin by funding alternate fuel innovation for air travel and on the other hand they commit the crimes of collusion. How can Virgin ever claim they advocate customer power? Virgin has lost all my respect.

  • 132.
  • At 05:13 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Mark Brown wrote:

Virgin should have been forced to pay the same fines as BA. They were willing partners.

Whistleblowing is for employees and not meant for one rival to get another in trouble.

Next time BA should act unlawfully with Virgin, then immediately inform the authorities and get immunity and let Virgin get fined.

It all looks like a Virgin setup to me. After all they are bitter rivals.

Branson should apologise and Virgin donate the same amount as BA's fine to charity.

  • 133.
  • At 05:14 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Stephen Morgan wrote:

How was this anti-competitive behaviour? Neither BA nor Virgin enjoy monopoly positions in this market and they are just two of many airlines operating. Also, their costs and hence surcharges are bound to be about the same as presumably they are buying their fuel in the same market place. If their customers found their surcharges too high surely they would have gone to another airline? So what if BA told Virgin (or vice versa) what they were to charge; both were free NOT to charge the same.

  • 134.
  • At 05:19 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David wrote:

It seems a bit ironic that a company gets the wrap for price fixing of fuel. The irony being that the people who set the price of fuel in the first place is fixed by the biggest cartel in the world - OPEC. My point being that the world is happy to do business with a cartel which actively fixes prices - and do nothing. But be rediculously harsh on a company reacting to those same price inceases. Double standards I think on account of the authorities.

  • 135.
  • At 05:42 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Vanessa Oliver wrote:

The justice in this case is very one-sided. Had there been just one instance it might be a bit more understandable. How can we be sure that Virgin didn't know what was going on but waited awhile to ensure the greatest penalty on their rival.

Having said that I do not feel sympathy for BA. Their action was no more than most of us would have expected of them.


  • 136.
  • At 05:45 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John Hickmott wrote:

Virgin blows the whistle on BA!
Makes you wonder why Sky dumped Virgin Media recently?

  • 137.
  • At 05:50 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Trev wrote:

BA are, quite rightly, in the dock for this but in the interests of fair justice, I feel Virgin shouldn't escape without blight.

Once again Mr Branson takes the moral high ground at a cost carried by others - a postion all too familiar in his rise and rise - it leaves a bad taste.

  • 138.
  • At 05:53 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • AirTraveller wrote:

Have they failed to realise that when airlines operate on the same routes, and allow interlining, there are tickets which must be sold allowing the passenger to travel on any airline (these are eg W1 or J1 tickets as opposed to W2VS/W2BA / J2VS/J2BA). In order for the tickets to be priced correctly (although the airline can charge it's own fare, and compensate if the alternate has a higher fare) all charges must be agreed upon. Hence I think there is a gross over-reaction by the OFT. Price-fixing is not what is going on, it is making clear the TFCs (Taxes Fees and Charges) for each ticket in order that the fully flexible any carrier tickets can be issued correctly. I suspect that fines of these magnitude do NOT send the right message out, they only serve to hurt the consumer, particularly if one guilty party gets off scot-free!

  • 139.
  • At 06:00 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • SurbitonSteve wrote:

Funny, I do not see a PR gain from this action; it took two willing partners to conclude the deal.

Additional fuel charges were needed, in the US a mixture of fuel costs and wage inefficiency has driven a number of the airlines into Chapter 11.

I have a very uneasy feeling about the unequal nature of this justice and in chosing my partner to take me across the Atlantic perhaps I will stick with the Company that kept to its deal.

  • 140.
  • At 06:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • robert white wrote:

Branson gets away with this sort of thing all the time, he just has very clever PR. That is why he is the people's princess...........

  • 141.
  • At 06:37 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

Murrough (#126): "It was not as if they were coluding on the base fares"

Oh really? I think you mean "it was not as if they got caught colluding on the base fares". Have you ever tried comparing the prices between the 2 airlines? Maybe I've just been unlucky, but whenever I've compared the 2 on the same route, there has never been a difference of more than a couple of quid between them.

  • 142.
  • At 06:37 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Rick Wild wrote:

Looking at the slightly larger picture:

1. How about the cost of funding this operation, no doubt primarily instigated by "jobsworths" with little better to do?

2. In real terms: does it really make a huge difference to the price of competing airliner tickets?

3. How about government agencies devote the same amount of time to creating a "level playing field" by ensuring customers only ever compare ONE price? If I buy an apple, I don't pay 5p for the apple plus 4p increased fuel costs plus 2p credit card charge plus 4p taxes and greengrocer charges for displaying my apple... I pay 16p and it is advertised as 16p: this one step would create much more good to the British air industry than all the negative publicity surounding the BA/Virgin issue.

4. Who really wins? Well, with the exception of a couple of BMi flights from Manchester, only other airlines with significant capacity across the Atlantic are.....American airliners. How convenient.

  • 143.
  • At 07:38 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Dave Pomroy wrote:

This is about fuel surcharge price fixing. When will OPEC be in court for fixing the price of fuel - or am I missing something?

  • 144.
  • At 07:47 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Christian Davis wrote:

So Virgin have got one over on BA again. They get stung hard by their own government whilst Branson's Virgin get off lightly. Doesn't seem fair to me. If I were running BA I'd be looking to hurt Virgin somehow over this.... it's about time that BA threw a punch....

  • 145.
  • At 08:09 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Graham Maughan wrote:

There's as much chance of Branson apologising as there is of him paying tax in the UK.

  • 146.
  • At 08:24 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

#141, I have found that in general Virgin are cheaper between Miami and London regardless, especially when you book last minute. All said and done, this stinks and Joe Public will not see a penny of any fines to BA. I guess its buyer beware and use the travel sites, Orbitz, Expedia, Mobissimo etc and try the airlines websites to get the best price

  • 147.
  • At 08:26 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Rex Butters wrote:

After the duplicitous behaviour of Virgin in this sad affair,I pledge 1) NEVER to fly with Virgin again and hope that all US customers will join in a Class action against them for their part in this.

  • 148.
  • At 08:27 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David Smith wrote:

Surely if Branson has any genuine remorse for his major part in this affair he should show this by paying a similar sized fine to charity.

  • 149.
  • At 08:40 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Kevin Jones wrote:

I suppose the tax payer will pay in the end as these fines will be written off against Corporation tax. As to the Americans I would, if I was them, let it be known that they either not going to buy any Boeing planes to replace their long haul fleet or get them so cheaply that the fine will be paid.

  • 150.
  • At 08:46 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Sean wrote:

Its no surprising that a Virgin brand escapes censor - just look at the way their railway franchise performances have been spun. Despite much evidence to the contrary, including some dubious accountancy between companies within the group, Branson continues to enjoy a reputation as an "outsider" and avoid accusations of being a greedy fat cat that get levelled at his peers.

  • 151.
  • At 09:08 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Tony Corless wrote:

If there was a real desire to punish BA then taking away some of their Heathrow slots would be appropriate. This would provide increased competition in their back yard.
You pretty much have to fly BA and consequently their service is poor.

Last three BA flights have averaged 90mins landing to baggage reclaim. BA staff at baggage reclaim told us "You should know better than to fly into Heathrow on a Friday night, blame the new BA bosses. They send everyone home and there are never enough baggage handlers late evening."

  • 152.
  • At 09:18 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Chris Hawdon wrote:

I can't believe all of the comments here begging for BA to go the wall and looking forward to seeing the managers and staff sacked. Having lost our manufacturing, our mining, our car industry etc I find it amazing we'd all be so eager to see another major British brand go to the wall and do all we possibly can to avoid flying with them etc Will the british public never learn to support their own companies who pay their taxes in the uk and employ uk people? I think we're the only country in the world that do all we can to send our own industries under. Never mind, I'm sure everybody can work in the public sector or in Starbucks.

  • 153.
  • At 09:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • liz stokes wrote:

both companies should be fined, however despite them being fined, do the customers see there money?

  • 154.
  • At 09:29 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

Maybe we should think about the position the two companies were in before we join in with the stoning.

At the time, all airlines were suffering due to two factors... highly competitive pricing leading to wafer-thin margins on services, coupled with rising fuel prices which threatened to make those margins disappear - even maybe go negative.

In that situation, it makes good commerical sense for the two toughest UK based competitors to agree an equal fixed surcharge, whilst retaining the differential in price that existed before the surcharge. To hike one company's price unilaterally would give the other such an advantage that it would be a disastrous move. Neither company could take that risk - they must act in the interests of shareholders.

Despite the fact that it technically breached competition rules, it was probably a logical and sensible move for both companies to enter into discussion. Otherwise one of them would have had to commit commercial suicide to break the competitive deadlock. Maybe the law needs to change to take account of what happened here, otherwise it will continue to be tempting (even expedient) to break the law to ensure survival.

  • 155.
  • At 09:43 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • steve pilkington wrote:

Maybe this is Branson paying BA back for not allowing him to take on Concorde. Fair play to him.

  • 156.
  • At 09:56 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • gene wrote:

I am sorry I am using Virgin now for my August holiday. Colluding is bad- then grassing up the company you colluding with is just downright school bullyboy behaviour.

  • 157.
  • At 10:17 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Jim McIntosh wrote:

30 years ago, Richard Nixon was known as "trickie dickie". Today, we have a new candidate in Richard Branson whose "whistleblowing" antics may well bring down the national airline. No doubt this will be good news for Branson who will no doubt wish to capitalise. For someone who regularly portrays his patriotism what Virgin did was disgraceful - they are equally culpable and they should also face financial penalties. British justice should apply overall - immunity from penalties when Virgin were also a party to wrongdoing is totally discriminatory. If BA fails as a result, I would hope that Branson would apologise to all employees of BA who might suffer as a result of his actions but somehow I doubt it.

  • 158.
  • At 10:20 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • lizzie wrote:

thats why i fly ryanair a great airline no trolly dolly up your nose i am better than you attitude a great price for what you get and i only hope they are able to fly to the us soon virgin and ba have had it so good to long all for the shareholders lets live lizzie

  • 159.
  • At 10:21 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The first perp who talks....walks. The DOJ like all law enforcement agencies likes to go after the big fish. So where did they think they were, Europe where collusion, price fixing, and other anti competitive practices to kill the consumer are de rigeur? But what can you expect when the best of a crooked lot, the British government hushes up 2 billion dollars in illegal kickbacks to win military contracts it knows about and squelches investigations to protect British industries? Between corporate corruption and taxes, it's a wonder the European economies haven't gone broke long ago. When I lived in France 35 years ago, collusion was so bad that a 2% sale on furniture at a big retailer Carrefour was a big "occasion."

The real disappointment in all prison time for BA's execs yet. Maybe later on though. "The fines will end the civil case against BA, but a criminal investigation is still continuing, and the OFT said no conclusions could be drawn about whether charges against individuals would be brought." GO DOJ GO!

  • 160.
  • At 10:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • David wrote:

Let me be the one to be stupid enough connect several unconnected themes

First off the US gov. spokeman didn´t seem to get BA´s full name right ! British Air .

And then tells us it´s a crime against every US citizen . How can that be in any real sense when we´re talking about a surcharge measured against the rest of the ticket price. A surcharge based on the rise in the price of oil which is in turn fixed by various cartels/mechanisms . If one had done it on Tuesday , the other in all likelyhood would have done it on Wednesday .

And is BA a flag carrier (quote BBC World) in the sense of what it used to mean ?

Someones taking a chance to fleece this industry again .....

And Virgin get off without loosing a penny . Where´s the justice in that ?

And finally , the US has muscled in on LHR after all the Chapter 11´s . There´s zero quid pro quo in that either .

A sore BA shareholder ...

  • 161.
  • At 10:25 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • craig wilson wrote:

I think Branson should be punished too, not only was he ripping customers off with airfares but now he launches the new Virgin Media deal and Slaps Big Technical support Phone charges for his loyal customers like myself to face at a cost of 25p per minute & a 10p Connection charge In the event of any problems with my Home Equipment. and i currently have a Virgin Tv Service, Virgin Broadband, Virgin Landline & Virgin Mobile. I think its disgusting how he gets richer and richer, and the rest of us foot his costs on whatever he decides to own next.

  • 162.
  • At 10:26 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Philip van Bergen wrote:

Do any commentators actually know the full facts?

  • 163.
  • At 10:36 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

According the Tom Bowers unauthorised biography of Richard Branson, he was extremely lucky not to go to jail for Purchase Tax fraud early in his career (he got a massive fine instead).

I mention this because I believe that fundamentally some people do not change and one could argue that Branson got the ultimate revenge on the UK Taxman by eventually purchasing his very own tax haven - Necker in the BVI, to which apparently all the profits from the Virgin empire flow.

I also met a chap recently who has dealt with Branson and he told me that once the door closes and you are alone with Richard Branson, the smiling stops and you are now dealing with a very tough, ruthless businessman.

Not really too surprising, when you think about it.

The airline (Virgin) was a big step forward for consumers in the beginning but I think Branson very quickly realised just how ferociously competitive the airline business it is, and it really was'nt too long before before it, in reality, became just another me-too airline.

The branding and marketing departments of Virgin have worked miracles over the years and it still continues, despite regular horrors, such as the ntl/Virgin Media tie-up.

Somehow Branson stills seems to be able to 'flip' a business such as that, and make a healthy profit.

The {self-made} rich truly are different.

  • 164.
  • At 10:37 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Interesting, and of course Oil prices are not the result of collusion

  • 165.
  • At 10:52 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Graham Bridges wrote:

A nice friendly little arrangement, all working well, and then instead of just ending it Virgin have to grass up its partner. Wouldn't have happened in my school. Moral high ground, I think not, more like self righteous condemnation to save their backside.

  • 166.
  • At 11:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Alex, Tunbridge Wells wrote:

I wouldn't put it past Virgin to have initiated the whole thing in order to get BA in to serious trouble.

As someone suggested, they should now donate a similar fund to charity.

  • 167.
  • At 11:05 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

If BA & Virgin were apparently overcharging why didn't the US population use American Airlines, United Airlines, etc., or perhaps they were charging even more?

  • 168.
  • At 11:21 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I have no doubt that BA were stitched up by Virgin.

If Branson had any honour he should agree to split the fine with BA, because if BA had blown the whistle he would be in for the full wack instead.

If BA are crooks then Virgin are crooks too. Virgin's mealy mouth apology is rather pathetic.

Well done Sir Richard!!! You have sorted out the big boys at last!!
Now we can all sleep at night and go holiday for a reasonable price? I hope so!!

  • 170.
  • At 11:48 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • john robins wrote:

The fact that Sir Richard Branson was given immunity by the DoJ in the US and the OFT in the UK for being the whistleblower is irrelevant. It was nothing short of theft by him as well. Its no good passing the buck on to staff about how they should act within the law, he is "Virgin"
Mr Branson should be stripped of his knighthood for his role in the debacle. Are there other skeletons in the Virgin closet ? He is very quick to jump in front of a camera when it suits him. No doubt his PR outfit has started on a damage limitation exorcise. However, the public now know his Virgin Airline acted illegally but was spared any punishment because of immunity. It is shambolic.

  • 171.
  • At 11:52 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • DJD wrote:

writing as a lawyer, I feel I should try to dispel a few myths that seem to abound:

- fines are separate from compensation. Passengers (whether BA or Virgin) who overpayed as a result of the price fixing can reclaim their money from the airline. Write to the airline and if you have no joy try the small claims court.

- so in fact Virgin does not get off free. If all the passengers who lost out claim back their money, Virgin will lose all the benefit gained by the price fixing. The fine (paid to the government) is an additional punishment for BA.

- BA can't set the fine off against corporation tax because it is not a legitimate business expense.

hope that clears things up.

  • 172.
  • At 12:01 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • fifi wrote:

As I have been a passenger of Virgin Atlantic....could I sue them for knowingly 'deceive' me?Perhaps a class action?Any suggestions?

  • 173.
  • At 12:26 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Arthur wrote:

Lord Branson I presume?

  • 174.
  • At 01:13 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Richard Jones wrote:

I'm not convinced people understand what has happened here, and how business is actually run. BA have been fined by the authorities for colluding with Virgin when they were going to change there fuel surcharge and how much it was going to be. This is in my opinion completely fair, what is unfair is that Virgin get of scot free.

This fine is nothing to do with whether the fuel surcharge is illegal, too high or anything else. Therefore, why people feel that they are due a refund on something that is routine amongst most of the airlines at this time is beyond me. The airlines are charging this surcharge because of the high oil price, if it wasn't specifically mentioned as a fuel surcharge then all that would happen is that the price of the ticket would be increased to cover the costs. Isn't it better that at least there is some clarity.
As for the relative cost of airline tickets, these are not priced based upon how far it is, whether they like peoples colour, or any other reason. The prices are based upon what the consumer is willing to pay, this is why they have peak seasons, premium routes etc. Yes, tickets going via Amsterdam, Paris etc. may be cheaper,this is because the European airlines want UK business. Likewise if you are European you will see that BA and Virgin charge significantly less than the European airlines. This is business and it is all about getting market share and making profit. This may appear unfair to people in the UK (as well as Europe, Americas and anywhere else), but it is just the way businesses are run.

I for one would prefer to travel non stop to a destination rather than having to change at a hub. However, obviously I will not pay a premium at any cost, but direct services do come at a cost.

  • 175.
  • At 02:04 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • dharam wrote:


  • 176.
  • At 02:27 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Paddy wrote:

Let’s get some facts straight. 2 BA officials were on leave -commercial director and communications chief, since the probe began back in June 2006. BA had admitted they had contacted Virgin over fuel surcharges. One can only assume this is the reason for their leave due to some sort of involvement of the allegation. Although we do not know as yet the extents of the conservation took place between the two companies, doesn’t these two facts gave us a very clear picture of the reason why BA were given a record fines.
Today’s finding is about BA being fined for anti-competitive and fixing the price on fuel surcharges, as there is still a criminal investigation underway, it would be too early to say whether Virgin were at fault. Willie Walsh quite rightly said today, there has been no winner.
Whoever made the initial contact has left a bad taste for the air transport industry.

  • 177.
  • At 09:49 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Colin Sullivan wrote:

This is a total mess! All airlines operating on the same routes have been applying 'very similar' fuel surcharges and applying them at 'very similar times' as each other.
I would suggest that there has been an 'understanding' between them where they did not want to compete on these surcharges. That's why surcharges were never incorporated into the general fares.
Because Virgin wanted to score points over BA they declared they had been colluding for some time, landed BA in the mire and got off Scot-free.
What of all the other airlines flying into UK and the USA who have been announcing similar surcharges increases on the same day?
The absudity is that most, if not alol scheduled airlines, would not be buying fuel on the spot market (the way the surcharge index is calculated) but do so on annual contracts.

This all needs further investigateion to exonerate BA. It gooes much deeper than the BA/Virgin rift. They are not a perfect airline and certainly not my favourite but they are easy to knock and this situation, set up by Virgin, is a a really cheap trick.
Will Richard Branson alias the Kodak Kid declare any knowledge of this?

  • 178.
  • At 10:08 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • ianl wrote:

One thing which I have not seen or heard addressed anywhere is precisely where the money BA have been fined actually goes too???

  • 179.
  • At 10:15 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

What I want to know is why is this cartel restricted just to UK & US? For a long time it seems clear that Qantas and British Airways have fixed a cartel between Australia and the UK. With a strangle hold on the Kangaroo route, they've both rapidly increased, almost simultaneously their 'fuel surcharge fees' built into the overall cost of fares in the last few years. Why aren't Qantas being hit with a big fine here as well as BA on other routes?

  • 180.
  • At 10:21 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

If you compare say using an award booking for a flight on BA transatlantic vs AA transatlantic, so we're only talking about the additional fees, you'll see each way, BA comes in at about US$70 more expenses in 'fees' than AA. An AA award seat is about US$1.50 each way, BA is US$70 each way...

  • 181.
  • At 10:36 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • darren kite wrote:

I echo some of the comments mentioned here. I think it's ridiculous that Virgin is not being fined also - it takes 2 to tango and sends the wrong message to the industry. Also how can the UK allow the US to undertake fining BA? I'm sure the money would just go into the US "Coffers" - probably to help fund another miltary sortie! We should have also veto'd the Open Skies agreement - especially as it's not reciprocal in the US - again they are allowed to do what they want in that country! Agreed BA should have been fined as cannot condone what they had done but there are limits to what fines should/could be handed out!

  • 182.
  • At 11:03 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Tony Fellows wrote:

Fair enough fining BA but where does this money go - into the treasury pot I presume. Also, why should a British company pay a fine to the USA - what cause in the USA does the fine go? Can't BA refuse to pay the fine - it will only go into funding America's wars.
I've never heard of an American company paying a fine to Britain - they wouldn't allow it. Britain is a weak country to allow America to continually dictate accountancy regulation. Russia soon tells them where to go !!

  • 183.
  • At 11:18 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

This incident should call into question the immunity for the whistleblower. Virgin have never been good friends with BA. How do we know they did not trap them and then go to the OFT knowing they would be immune? It is an advantage to Virgin as it weakens their competition and damages BA reputation without costing them a penny. I think the penalty to BA is 100 excessive. Are we trying to break British companies?

  • 184.
  • At 11:36 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

Typical Branson if you ask me.
Play along with it all, take the cash and then snitch on the others.
Didn't a similar thing happen with his first bid for the lottery?
How he's managed to keep this hero
of the people tag for so long mystifies me.

  • 185.
  • At 11:49 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • George Sharpe wrote:

Virgin conspired with BA to the public's detriment and profited from the conspiracy yet they come away unpunished and looking like the good guys. Just maybe they set the whole sting operation up in advance. Cunning plan - make excessive profits, damage a competitor and walk away garlanded as the consumers' champion. Nice one Sir Richard.

  • 186.
  • At 12:11 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Joe Reevy wrote:

Typical Branson. Dubious tactics lead to PR triumph.

The fact that Virgin have less legroom than most of their transatlantic competitors is another reason why I won't use them.

How much better would life be is 'Tubular Bells' had flopped?

  • 187.
  • At 12:17 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

I believe it is outrageous for Virgin to get off scot free. I hope all the affected customers sue the pants off it, in as many class actions as possible. Their actions were just as reprehensible as BA’s. For them to be let off in this way sends the wrong signal to other potential villains.

I also hope the EU competition authorities pick this up and ensure that Virgin is also punished.

Being a realist I recognise the value in giving whistleblowers an incentive. But giving them 100% discount on potential fines is going too far. Fines 25% or 50% lower than BA would have still shown a significant incentive to blow the whistle.

In addition to the monetary fine it is very noticeable that BA are getting about 90% of the bad publicity. The media including the BBC should be ashamed. By their own admission Virgin are just as guilty as BA. The fact that they recanted and owned up first does not diminish their crime. The competition agencies have imposed monetary fines, but the damage to their reputations could cost both BA and Virgin more. The press has a duty to equally vilify BOTH Virgin and BA.

  • 188.
  • At 12:47 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Why is the fine by the US's DoJ higher than the fine by the UK's OFT? As more British passenger's would have been affected than US ones it doesn't make any sense.

  • 189.
  • At 02:02 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Al wrote:

The fuel surcharges are a way of getting back some of the increase in fuel costs borne by the airlines (fares have to be filed well in advance and can't just be updated as and when). It looks to me as though BA and Virgin were merely ensuring they weren't putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage to each other. Big deal. People here are overreacting bigtime. Compare it to business practices by the likes of the big supermarkets in wringing the life out of their suppliers. Yet Im sure most people posting here shop in Tescos etc without thinking twice about it. I know what I view as the biggest 'crime'.

As for the US dishing out fines for supposed uncompetitive behaviour, that's a joke when their airlines have been propped up by billions of dollars of government aid since september 11 and allowed to operate in competition with other countries airlines whilst under the protection of Chapter 11.

  • 190.
  • At 03:07 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Once upon a time, companies used to operate under a charter: pull a stunt like this one, and your charter was revoked. Stuff fines, you were out of business and that's all she wrote. Then a few naughty plutocrats got together, bought a few politicians, and companies suddenly became "people' with all the 'inherent rights' of a person. Ironically, while it was legal (at least until four decades ago) for the state to snuff out a human life, companies were immune from consequence. Companies are now memes, artificial, notional life forms with very simple inputs - almost like amoeba. There may be intelligent people in charge, but they're operating in the framework of the company and it's primary objective: eat, grow. It's not surprising then, that corporations have become moral amoeba. It would have been a far clearer message if the state had simply arrested the board and largest shareholders of BA, tossed them in a cell with other frauds and liards, dissolved the company, sold its assets and pocketed the proceeds. I bet you we'd have fewer incidents like this.

  • 191.
  • At 04:10 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Kolya wrote:

I don't recognise all the BA slating I've been reading here. I fly BA all the time, and find their service better than anyone elses on the Tarnsatlantic routes. United Airlines - please!! But I guess that their service is so much better now since all you guys have got up and used someone else instead. If you're telling me that the American airlines are better, I think you don't fly at all. BA are good to their loyal customers, and though I amsad that their was collusion over prices, I donm't believe that we'd have saved much if they hadn't colluded at all. Think British and Fly BA. Virgin's a toad as far as I'm concerned, though their service isn't bad.

What about TV licence price fixing!?!

  • 193.
  • At 07:24 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Myke Duncan wrote:

I may be being daft here but wont the consumer ultimately end up paying this fine? As BA bump up its ticketing costs in order to pay up!?

  • 194.
  • At 08:23 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • billy foy wrote:

is whistleblower and grass one and
the same ?


  • 195.
  • At 10:39 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • brian neale wrote:

So the heavy hand of "Uncle Sam" has quite rightly come down heavily on British Airways for trying to fix prices.
But, when I ask are they going to show any guts in facing up to an even more blatent form of price fixing, namely the OPEC oil cartel, which has been ripping off the consumers of the world for years with
it's anti-competitive practices.
Or is it the case, as usual, that America is quite happy to bully someone smaller and less powerful than itself but backs away from a real fight with an organization with so much financial muscle as OPEC?
"What ever you do, don't upset the Arabs", I can imagine Bush saying, "At least not the ones with the oil".

  • 196.
  • At 09:50 AM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Adam Oliver wrote:

The issue here is not the fact of the collusion, but the size of the fine. It seems wildly excessive to me. As all commentators are saying, the damage to BA's reputation from this finding is heavy (far heavier than the equally culpable Virgin), and a £50 m fine would have had the same impact.
Given that the money is not going as compensation to customers (and given the general understanding that customers may not actually have suffered any loss since prices would have risen anyway) I see this as gratuitous on the part of the OFT who sadly are starting to mimick the absurd approach of US regulators. Let's hope other UK regulators don't adopt the same sledgehammer approach.
Also, I find the media coverage disappointing. BA has chosen to put its hands up to limit ongoing PR damage, but there must be pundits out there who share my view and I would have hoped to have heard it expressed.

  • 197.
  • At 01:07 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Joe Connors wrote:

This action has been taken because of the negative impact it has had on customers. However, where does everyone think BA are going to have to source funds from to pay the fine? In the end, the customer loses whatever happens; either we are ripped off by the airlines or inevitably end up paying the fine for them.

  • 198.
  • At 01:50 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Roger Digby wrote:

The fines create noisy headlines and bad publicity for the airlines, but they will recover the fines from their customers (who are thereby hit twice over)and recover their PR stance with a few cheap stunts. If the regulators had been serious, they would order all the airlines involved (and not only those who failed to own up in time) to put a proportion of their runway slots up for auction to the highest bidders. If the same airlines bought back the slots, they would effectively be fined. If not, competition would be genuinely encouraged.

  • 199.
  • At 03:08 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Geoff Wilcock wrote:

Very disappointed in Virgin. I travel a few times of year to the US and was about to try them. They can never again have any moral high ground.

Maybe the 'fine' will be their reputation. They come out of it as equally immoral and being not very nice all round.

  • 200.
  • At 04:39 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • karl wrote:

Is it possible that Virgin were involved for so long so that the authorities could use them as bait?

We know that Virgin's legal dept informed the authorities but we don't know (I think) when this was in the 17 months indicated.

If Virgin told the auths early on and then continued in order to gather evidence then all power to them. The police often ask informers to remain involved until they have the evidence to convict.

I would love to see chapter and verse on this published. Many years ago I fought the oil cos in a Select Committee and pointed out the weak state of the British legislation and recommended we adopt US-style penalties and protection for whistle-blowers. This was implemented a few years later.

Finally, a real punishment to fit the crime and deter others.

  • 201.
  • At 05:29 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • ACL wrote:

Virgin but not Branson has now apologized. I wonder why it took that long.

Apology not withstanding, I still say they should also be fined. £28 million sounds about right.
OFT, Are you listening?

  • 202.
  • At 12:09 AM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • Derek Watts wrote:

Once again you have to refer back to the bare facts, none at this time which point to Virgin being an instigator. The statements that Virgin colluded with BA have so far all come from BA's version of events. I do however feel that revenge is sweet - BA have escaped lightly on many occassions and had Branson not sued BA over the dirty tricks campaign all those years ago, very likely his airline would have gone the same way as Sir Freddie Laker's...

As for the American authorities demanding increased compensation from BA and Virgin, frankly they have a nerve, with the playing field being so heavily tilted in their favour as it is. All of the US major carriers languished under Chapter 11 bankrupcy for interminable periods of time post 9/11, during which time instead of drastic restructuring, many of them launched agressive seat sales on transatlantic routes to steal a larger share of the market whilst being afforded protection from their creditors, many of whom went under.

  • 203.
  • At 04:08 AM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • mainlip wrote:

Seems to me that both BA and Virgin should have been made to repay all fuel surcharges levied since this began.
This would serve to punishment the airlines and recompense those customers directly who have been ripped off as a result.
And fined to cover the costs of the investigation and prosecution.

  • 204.
  • At 11:02 AM on 05 Aug 2007,
  • jonbly wrote:

Heh... saw the headline and assumed that this was about Virgin Media's failure to give discounts to its TV customers after losing access to Sky One.

  • 205.
  • At 06:40 PM on 05 Aug 2007,
  • Gregor Campbell wrote:

I apologise if this was mentioned by others sometime ago but I could not find it. But I feel that the correct balance, that Robert Peston was looking for, was in the hands of the BBC and its editors. Why was the BBC news story not led with 'Virgin Atlantic and BA found guilty of.....' and the fine could have been later in the story with an explanation. But BBC news all day kept pushing the line about the fine and the amount and rarely made the good point that Robert and everyone else has made. Virgin PR must have been thrilled. Could the Business Editor not have done a strong bit of editing from the start?

  • 206.
  • At 08:07 AM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Martin Basil wrote:

It may not be right but it is justice of a sort after all BA ruined and Freddie Laker's business by colluding with other airlines and delayed low cost transatlantic travel by 20 years. They tried to do the same to Virgin but failed and we can thank Virgin for low cost airfares that we now get to North America.

  • 207.
  • At 01:11 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • James wrote:

As a ‘ordinary’ BA employee I’d just like to say that most of us working for the company were thoroughly disgusted and embarrassed by the episodes which led to this fine. Just as importantly all of us are totally fed up with the constant thrashing from the UK press. Yes we understand that we get a huge amount of complaints, but this is based on the enormous amounts of passengers that use our services every year. As a percentage I doubt that we are any worse than many other carriers. All of us within the company have been driven to work harder and harder since privatisation and through these efforts have turned the company into a hugely successful world brand. The UK press seem to be determined to unfairly drive BA to the wall, and to make unemployed 50,000 UK taxpayers. We have battled against unfair /illegal subsidies, state run carriers, chapter 11 protection, Aviation terrorism, foot and mouth in the UK, bird flu, wars in various regions and destinations, airport infrastructure breakdown, plus EU bias for years – surely our own press can find some good things to write about BA as well as the regular pannings.

  • 208.
  • At 01:44 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Mark R wrote:

Surely if BA and Virgin wanted to collude on their surcharge prices, all they need to do is go on to each company's ticketing sites. There, the prices for tickets, taxes and surcharges are clear to see.
Here's a suggestion to BA and Virgin - employ a junior member of staff to do the job for you. Then you don't need to sack your top brass when you get found out!!

  • 209.
  • At 04:50 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • John Bridgeman wrote:

The punishment where possible should fit the crime.
Whitleblowers should be offered leniency but not immunity. There is otherwise the danger that unethical firms can collude for as long as it suits them but then escape penalty by being the first to "confess" - having reaped the rewards for their wrongdoing in the meantime.
Most airlines keep contact details of their passengers - BA and Virgin should be made to pay compensation to those who have been harmed.
Alternatively anyone able to demonstrate that they have been victims of this business crime should be offered 6 months to claim triple damages compensation.

  • 210.
  • At 05:54 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Peter Galbavy wrote:

Virgin Atlantic, and by implication the entire Virgin brand, is simply a giant hot-air PR machine.

Allow me to witter on about one example which has led me to stop using them out of simple disgust; In my case, many years ago, I used to fly Upper Class on business and was "granted the privilege" (irony intended) of a "Gold" card in their Flying Club. One of the positive conditions was that even if I stopped flying enough and lost "gold" level status I would have a "silver" card for life, with all the minor benefits that delivers.

Yeah, right! A little while later I was sent a red card and a letter saying that the T&Cs have changed at that I am no longer entitled to the silver card. So, "lifetime membership" wasn't worth the original paper it was written on.

Sums up my experience of the entire brand over the years really. This doesn't mean I think BA is any better mind...

  • 211.
  • At 12:49 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

I can't believe people are shocked by this behaviour! this is common practice in british business, what is unusual is that we have media coverage.
Lead from the front and when we see the examples from our leaders that gives the green light.
Truth, trust and honour. These werent just words.

  • 212.
  • At 01:37 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Phil T wrote:

No doubt about, BA is a tarnished brand and will have lost the trust of many current and former customers. How they go about restoring this is a fascinating conundrum. Many will say they had it coming, having played dirty tricks on other airlines for years. I think Virgin have played this with the skill of a master tactician and come out relatively unscathed. All is fair in love and war, after all.

  • 213.
  • At 03:38 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • David Stanhope wrote:

Ian Norris, ex-CEO of Morgan Crucible, is in the latter stages of trying to prevent his extradition to the US to answer price fixing charges that he alleges were not a crime in the UK at the time. He could face a stretch in a US prison if convicted.

Leaving aside whether price fixing had become illegal in the UK by the time VA and BA colluded, when the US DoJ finishes its own investigation into the BA/VA collusion could we see US extradition orders made against Sir Richard Branson and Sir Rod Eddington (BA CEO at the time)?!

  • 214.
  • At 06:22 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Robert Hawkins wrote:

It is churlish to `have a go' at these airlines. The extreme rising cost of oil has forced all but the most pro-active of airlines, such as Southwest (US), who had a good portion of their fuel costs hedged, to pass the increase on to the consumer. Comments from 211 are spot on. Knock BA if you wish but remember..they are one of the safest airlines in the world, bar none.

  • 215.
  • At 10:54 AM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • ACL wrote:

Mark R. - The cooperation to coordinate the fuel surcharge increases for 17 months between Virgin and BA that is the problem.

A fair market depends on the fear of the loss of business for the first company to increase prices.

In your scenario, one company has to increase prices *first* before the others may or may not match prices.

I've changed my mind and now believe that it is right that Virgin is not punished.
Because how else are you going to find out about the cheating if the grass knows they would also be punished?
Punishing Virgin would both increase the likelyhood of future collusions and the duration of such collusions.

  • 216.
  • At 05:56 PM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • Paul Green wrote:

I dont agree that virgin should not be find because they also went with the idea.

The more i hear of virgin the more i get to dislike the virgin name as well as the founder of virgin.

Hes getting to be a non squeaky clean person as you would expect.

  • 217.
  • At 11:40 AM on 09 Aug 2007,
  • David wrote:

I think that BA were Stupid to get into bed with Virgin.

Branson has been after them since BA put Freddie Laker out of Business. Freddie was Branson friend and mentor, and went on the attack as soon as he started the airline with the David and Goliath story...

I am discussed though that after 17 months, Virgin become a Grass and walk away free from any penalty. I understand that there needs to be protection to promote whistle blowing, however to be making money for almost one and a half years before they speak out, they should at least donate the money to a real charity, not the falsification that has been done in the past by donating the profits from 2 Virgin company to green initiatives, in other words taking the profits from two organisation destroying the environment and put it into Virgin Green to find way to save the environment so that they can make more money...

  • 218.
  • At 05:55 PM on 10 Aug 2007,
  • Kofi Dwinfour wrote:

I can't imagine what everyone is complaining about. This is classic Prisoner Dilemma territory, and Virgin played it beautifully. Faced with the option of ratting out its partner in crime and being rewarded for it, the company made the rational decision.

  • 219.
  • At 07:43 PM on 11 Aug 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

Have we missed a point here folks - BA was fined for COLLUSION with VAA - let's not forget it takes 2 to tango, VAA was a willing partner in this affair. I don't intend to debate whether VAA being allowed to get away this is good or bad - it's the law - if you don't like it lobby for it to be changed.

Next point refund - what refund - what disadvantaged passengers ?. The fact that a fuel surcharge is / was required doesn't seem to be in dispute to me , what was at issue was the collusion to set the level - nobody as far as I know has proved the surcharge was unfair or unjustified.

If the fares of EITHER airline were that far off the norm then the passengers would have used a european or ameriican carrier - but AHH !! of course their fares were similar.

As a frequent flyer off several airlines and an avid fare comparator I find most of the comments above way off the point.

Sorry but let's all live in the real word of monopolistic activity being the norm.

  • 220.
  • At 10:07 PM on 12 Aug 2007,
  • A.Collier wrote:

Virgins usual childish playground tactics

  • 221.
  • At 02:14 AM on 13 Aug 2007,
  • john robins wrote:

my email #170 said Bransons PR outfit will start on a damage limitation exorcise. The publicity hungry whistleblower did not waste any time grabbing the headlines and a photo opportunity with his purchase of a stake in a Malaysian budget airline on Friday.
In addition he has the gaul to ask for an enquiry into Camelot's extention of the Lottery.....Give me a bucket.

  • 222.
  • At 02:26 PM on 14 Aug 2007,
  • Arshad wrote:

Let's not forget here Virgin took full benefit from the hike in prices which went straight into our so called Mr Squeeky Clean Branson's back pocket.

Only when he thought he may get caught he went and spilt the beans.

Once upon a time there was honour amongst theives - even that has now but vanished.

  • 223.
  • At 06:15 PM on 14 Aug 2007,
  • watkinson-yull wrote:

This is a case of BA up to their old tricks - well done Virgin for not wishing to continue with this scam.

If only we still had BOAC together with Great Britain.

  • 224.
  • At 03:14 AM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Carolyn Childs wrote:

Whilst it may leave a nasty taste that Virgin gets away with the collusion whilst BA suffers, the need for the amnesty for whistleblowers is right.

From now on, anyone who is tempted to approach a competitor to collude will remember this case and be tempted to think twice before they do so, or at least not do it for as long. In the long run, fewer people will get overcharged for less time.

  • 225.
  • At 08:41 AM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Adrian Rice wrote:

Has anyone wondered whether Virgin intended to blow the whistle all along? The £350 million fine on BA gives Virgin a big competitive advantage. If Virgin are geniunely sorry, perhaps they should make a £350m donation to charity (and demonstrate this above their normal giving).

  • 226.
  • At 05:07 AM on 27 Aug 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Once upon a time far far ago there was an airline, subsidised by the taxpayers. It provided safe, and excellent service for a smallish percentage of the U.K. and world population. Fares were high, but did not vary daily and hugely. The add ons of taxes,security,etc,did not exist. Now we all can travel, have our bags lost, face nausea everywhere, delays, insults, and obviously fraud. Is it worth travelling so much? At 30 inches seat pitch or less, with no food, and the prospect of no service anywhere if things go wrong. Virgin and BA are just symptoms of the airline disease.

  • 227.
  • At 03:25 AM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Anthony Dunn wrote:

What is truly remarkable, over and above the deception and fraud perpetrated by both airlines (and others elsewhere) is that BA management was so stupid as to allow any form of discussion with a competitor that has never missed an opportunity to stiff it in the past. Just what were those clowns at Speedbird House thinking?

At the very least, Willy Walsh should have instructed all BA staff to have precisely no dealings with Virgin Atlantic Airways on any basis - period. After that, he might like to get his head around how to ensure that, once BA moves to Terminal 5, there is no repeat of the LHR hell-hole sagas of recent years. Finally, how to improve on a service level that has slipped considerably in recent years: curmudgeonly staff, scruffy planes and queues for everything?

  • 228.
  • At 06:22 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • J Cox wrote:

Richard Branson apologise for being dishonest? It should be remembered that Richard Branson started his business career by massively defrauding HM Customs and Excise (a crime for which we all pay for ultimately). Even though he was prosecuted and punished for the offence, he still made a handsome profit.

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