Hausfeld wins significant victory on behalf of class of domestic airline ticket purchasers in antitrust lawsuit against major U.S. carriers
Washington, D.C. (September 12, 2023) A federal judge has rejected requests from Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to exit the ongoing multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) that alleges both airlines, along with two others—American Airlines and Southwest Airlines—conspired to limit domestic capacity to increase ticket prices, thus allowing the price-fixing case against Delta and United to move forward.
In a case of nationwide significance, presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, announced on Tuesday that the plaintiffs have presented credible evidence that "the increased profitability at issue here hinged on several airlines (together controlling a majority share of the domestic market) taking similar actions." If a single airline had reduced capacity, it would lose sales and market share, the judge said, denying the two airlines’ motions for summary judgment.
In her order, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said that the passenger plaintiffs have presented enough evidence "demonstrating a pattern of parallel behavior," as well as factors that "exclude the possibility that defendants acted independently."
“We are pleased that the court found that there is more than enough evidence to let a jury decide whether United, Delta, Southwest, and American colluded to restrain capacity in order to increase ticket prices,” Hausfeld Partner Hilary Scherrer said.
Hausfeld Chair Emeritus, Michael Hausfeld, agreed: “Among other aspects, the decision reflects the fact that the defendant airlines cannot hide behind claims that they were merely making public statements about their future business plans to appease their investors. We look forward to obtaining relief for flyers across the country that were forced to pay artificially high prices for air travel.”
Representing a putative class of domestic air passengers, Hausfeld brought suit in 2015 alleging that the four major U.S. passenger air carriers—United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines—conspired to fix domestic airfares by, among other things, reducing fleet capacity. The case initially involved plaintiffs in districts across the country who filed class action complaints against the four airlines, alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 3, by colluding to restrain capacity and raise prices. Dozens of subsequent class cases were filed. In early 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated and transferred the cases to the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C. for coordinated, multidistrict litigation pretrial proceedings.
In late 2017, plaintiffs reached a settlement agreement with Southwest Airlines for $15 million, allowing the airline to exit the price-fixing MDL. In mid-2018, American Airlines agreed to pay $45 million to settle, thus allowing it to also exit the litigation. The court provided final approved for both settlements in May 2019, bringing total settlements to $60 million at that point. Settlement class members include anyone who purchased flights from the defendant airlines between July 1, 2011 and June 14, 2018.
The case will now proceed to the class certification phase of the litigation. To obtain more information about the settlement and to receive notices about the ongoing litigation, please visit www.domesticairclass.com.
The case is In re: Domestic Airline Travel Antitrust Litigation, case number 1:15-mc-01404, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Düsseldorf, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Stockholm, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure.
Hausfeld is the only claimants’ firm to be ranked by The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top tier firm in private enforcement of antitrust/competition law in both the United States and Europe. Additionally, the firm has National Tier 1 Rankings in “Best Law Firms” in Antitrust and Litigation-Antitrust. For more information about the firm, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit www.hausfeld.com.
Lisa Sharrow: (202) 953-8177 or firstname.lastname@example.org