British Airways, Trans World Airlines, and Pan American World Airlines Inc. have agreed to give $30 million in air travel coupons to travelers who claimed they had to pay higher fares for trans-Atlantic flights after no-frills Laker Airways collapsed in 1982.
The three airlines, which denied any wrongdoing, agreed to the fund to settle an antitrust suit brought by travelers who claim the air carriers conspired in predatory acts that ultimately eliminated the low-cost competition from Laker Airways. Because the suit is a class-action suit, the settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene.
So far, more than 214,000 claims have been filed covering more than 1.5 million flights. Dividing the $30 million among that many travelers would mean they would receive coupons worth about $18 for each trans-Atlantic flight. Travelers who booked round-trip flights on any of the three airlines between March 1, 1982, and March 31, 1984, and who have filed claims, will receive two coupons each.
Additional claims can be filed until April 15 under the terms of the settlement.
The coupons will be for use only on flights between the United States and Britain. Other carriers flying those routes may honor the coupons. Some smaller airlines complained during hearings on the proposed settlement that they would have to honor the coupons in order to retain traffic, but would receive no reimbursement from the three airlines establishing the coupon system. The coupons will be good for five years.
Travelers whose claims are approved will receive the coupons, which can be assigned to someone else only at the time the claim forms are submitted. The coupons will not be marketable or transferable after receipt, according to the settlement.
Most of the claims were filed on behalf of travelers who claimed damages for five or fewer flights, but some, including a claim by the World Bank, were for larger numbers of flights.
Laker Airways was a London discount carrier founded by Sir Freddie Laker in 1977, which operated a no-frills Skytrain service between New York and London. Laker sued British Airways and 11 other firms, accusing them of collaborating to drive his airline out of business. In October, Laker and the companies he was suing reached an agreement for Laker's creditors to be paid $60 million, ending that lawsuit.
Still another lawsuit, brought by employes of the defunct airline, still is pending.
In addition to making available $30 million in coupons, the airlines will pay attorneys' fees that are to be set by the court.