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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.

The V&E team included antitrust partner Alden Atkins, appellate counsel Josh Johnson and antitrust senior associate David Smith.

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