Squire Patton Boggs Achieves a Significant Reduction for Airline Clients Before the EU General Court in the Airfreight Cartel Case

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On 9 November 2010, the European Commission adopted a decision against multiple undertakings operating in the airfreight market, alleging they had participated in a pricing cartel between December 1999 and February 2006, and imposed a fine on those carriers for a total amount of €790 million.

In 2015, the EU General Court annulled that decision on an appeal in which Squire Patton Boggs represented the Chilean companies LATAM Airlines and LAN Cargo. In 2017, the Commission adopted a fresh decision imposing fines of exactly the same amount, which all addressees again appealed. The General Court of the European Union gave judgment on those appeals on 30 March 2022.

The majority of the fines were upheld; however, the court reduced the fines for a group of airlines, in some cases significantly. For LATAM Airlines and LAN Cargo, the fines were reduced by more than 70%, which was by far the highest reduction of all airlines. LATAM Airlines and LAN Cargo were also the only airlines who were awarded full costs, indicating that the court considered that they succeeded on the majority of their arguments.

More specifically, the court found:

  • That the Commission was wrong to find that LATAM Airlines and LAN Cargo participated in an infringement relating to a security surcharge and the refusal by airlines to pay commission on the surcharge
  • That the Commission failed to prove the airlines’ participation in the infringement relating to a fuel surcharge prior to 22 July 2005
  • That the Commission breached the statute of limitation as regards intra-EEA and EU-Switzerland routes, as well as routes between airports in countries that are contracting parties of the EEA Agreement but not in the EU and airports in third countries

LATAM Airlines and LAN Cargo were represented in the proceedings by Brian Hartnett, Oliver Geiss and Will Sparks.

Further details on the case can be found on the EU Court ofJustice website.

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