Monday, September 28, 2015

Greensboro native's class-action suit alleges price-fixing by airlines

GREENSBORO — A Greensboro native and member of the Cone family is one of dozens of people across the country who have filed class-action lawsuits against the nation’s four major airlines for price-fixing.

Barbara Lawrence Cone of New York filed the suit Sept. 3 in U.S. Middle District Court in Greensboro.

She claims American, Delta, Southwest and United airlines conspired to fix ticket prices on domestic flights, a violation of federal anti-trust laws.

Because of this, Cone’s suit says, she “paid more for her airline tickets than she otherwise would have.”

The suit said Cone believes there are millions of potential members of her class-action suit spread out across the country who bought tickets with the airlines between Jan. 1, 2010, and the present.

The suit seeks damages for Cone and all other ticketholders in the time frame, as well as attorney fees.

Efforts Friday to reach Cone in New York were unsuccessful.

None of the four airlines have filed responses to Cone’s suit.

Cone’s suit is one of several class-action suits filed against the four airlines since the Department of Justice announced its investigation July 1. In mid-August, the Dallas Morning News counted 75 such suits — a calculation made before Cone filed her suit in Greensboro.

Passengers have filed suits in San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, New York and other cities.

The numerous suits share a common allegation: The airlines regularly communicated to artificially inflate airfares to reap huge profits. The airlines have continued to do this, the suits maintain, despite declining jet fuel prices.

The four airlines have repeatedly denied the claims.

In July, a spokesman for Delta Airlines said “the assertion that our success is due to anything more than the hard work of our people is not only ridiculous, it is offensive.

“The simple fact is that Delta has not engaged in any illegal behavior in regards to air passenger service capacity.”

The flood of class-action suits was prompted by word that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the airlines for price-fixing.

On July 1, The Associated Press reported that the justice department was investigating whether the four airlines conspired to keep fares artificially high. The DOJ eventually confirmed the investigation.

That investigation was prompted by questions from industry watchdogs and members of Congress.

Cone, who grew up in Greensboro, is the daughter of Robert and Sally Cone. Her suit notes that she bought tickets on numerous occasions with U.S. Airways and Delta to and from the Greensboro region.

Her local attorney, David Meschan, didn’t immediately respond Friday to requests for an interview.

The New York firm Weinstein Kitchenoff & Asher, which specializes in large-scale anti-trust cases, also is representing Cone.

Several airline industry publications and consumer groups have speculated that the courts eventually will consolidate the multiple class-action suits into one large case.


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