Burns faces court as BA price-fixing scandal rumbles on

Former British Airways PR boss Iain Burns is facing a possible prison sentence after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) charged him with helping to fix the price of fuel surcharges.

Burns: facing court
Burns: facing court

The accusation stems from the scandal that rocked BA in June 2006 when the carrier and its rival Virgin Atlantic were accused of artificially setting the prices of its fuel surcharges on transatlantic flights.

Burns, former BA commercial director and his then boss Martin George, former UK and Ireland sales chief Alan Burnett and current head of sales Andrew Crawley are due before City of London Magistrates Court on 24 September.

The four are accused of ‘having dishonestly agreed with others to make or implement arrangements which directly or indirectly fixed the price for the supply in the UK of passenger air transport services by BA and Virgin Atlantic’ between 2004 and 2006.

A statement issued by Burns’ lawyers Peters & Peters said he had no responsibility for pricing decisions during his time at BA. ‘Given his very high level of co-operation to the OFT, Iain is naturally disappointed with their decision, however he hopes that it will allow this case to be fully analysed before a court and finally provide him with the opportunity to clear his name,’ a spokesman added.

BA has already been hit with fines of more than £270m - £121m from the OFT and £150m by the US Department of Justice – for the scam, which saw fuel surcharges leap from £5 per ticket to £60 between 2004 and 2006.

Virgin escaped punishment after it went to the OFT and claimed whistle blower protection rules that gave it immunity from prosecution in the UK.

When the scandal broke, Burns and George were placed on leave of absence (PRWeek, 22 June), before Burns quit his head of corporate comms role four months later.

He joined United Arab Emirates national carrier Etihad Airways as V-P of corporate comms in January 2007 (PRWeek 20 December 2006).

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