Southwest Airlines has agreed to pay $15 million dollars to settle a lawsuit alleging that the nation’s four largest airlines colluded to boost ticket prices. Southwest denies the claims but said that the company chose to settle instead of enduring the time and cost of litigation.
The other airlines involved, Delta, United, and American also maintain their innocence and have all decided to continue their legal fight against the allegations.
The attorneys who have filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of consumers did so in response to a 2015 report by the Associated Press that the Justice Department had gotten involved in a collusion investigation against the four airlines.
Consumer groups believe that a series of mergers on the part of airline companies that began in 2008 has had the effect of eliminating competition and driving up the price of fares. These groups allege that the four airlines involved in the suit communicated to each other with the term ‘capacity discipline’ to reduce the numbers of available seats thereby driving up prices.
Lawsuits against the airlines filed individually throughout the country were combined to be included in a single federal district court case to be held in Washington, D.C. Southwest airlines began discussion pertaining to a settlement in September and according to court documents reached an agreement with lawyers for consumers in December.
A federal judge approved the deal on Wednesday but air travelers will be afforded the chance to object to the deal before the ruling becomes final.