AirTran Wins Baggage Fee Antitrust Battle at Eleventh Circuit
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh
Circuit has issued a major antitrust victory to Vinson & Elkins client
AirTran Airways in long running multidistrict litigation accusing the airline
of colluding with a competitor to adopt a first-checked baggage fee.
On March 9, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit
summarily affirmed a Georgia federal court’s determination that there was
insufficient evidence of a conspiracy between AirTran and Delta Air Lines, Inc.
to impose the fees. The decision comes just two days after V&E antitrust
partner Alden Atkins presented oral arguments to an Eleventh Circuit panel.
The underlying dispute dates to 2008, when
a number of airlines, including AirTran and Delta, instituted first bag fees.
In 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit alleging that AirTran and
Delta conspired to adopt the fees.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs sought
all first bag fees paid to AirTran and Delta from 2008 to 2014, trebled under
the antitrust laws, which amounted to billions of dollars in alleged damages. On
March 29, 2017, V&E won summary judgment in favor of AirTran, arguing
successfully that the plaintiffs could not prove collusion.
V&E team included antitrust partner Alden Atkins, appellate counsel Josh
Johnson and antitrust senior associate David Smith.