Last updated: 02:51 PM ET, Wed June 08 2016

Senators Ask DOT, DOJ To Investigate Lufthansa Group Surcharge

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 08, 2016

Senators Ask DOT, DOJ To Investigate Lufthansa Group Surcharge

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A year after Lufthansa imposed an $18 surcharge on airline tickets purchased from a third-party vendor – such as an online travel agency – three U.S. Senators are asking for an investigation into whether the German airline violated United States anti-trust laws.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Transportation Department Secretary Anthony Foxx and Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging them to investigate whether comments made last year by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr violated the Sherman Act.

Enacted in 1890, the Sherman Act was the first federal legislation designed to prevent trusts and anti-competitive business practices.

“On June 8, 2015, at a panel of the IATA (International Air Transport Association) conference with more than 100 executives from competing airlines in the audience, Mr. Spohr announced that Lufthansa was planning to impose an $18 surcharge on price comparison websites,” the letter reads. Later questioned about other airline reactions to his statement, Mr. Spohr said, “It's a first step and I believe others will follow.”

READ MORE: Lufthansa: Book Through Us Or Pay a Fee

But others did not follow in the controversial practice, which all but tried to remove agents from the selling equation by imposing the surcharge. Customers could avoid the surcharge by buying their tickets exclusively at Lufthansa’s website or its booking offices.

“Lufthansa’s conduct, encouraging competitors collectively representing the vast majority of the market to follow Lufthansa’s lead in raising prices, raises the question of whether they have run afoul of the Sherman Act,” the letter explains.

Sens. Lee, Klobuchar, and Blumenthal called on the DOT and DOJ to “thoroughly investigate this matter and, if you find that there has been a violation, to address it with an appropriate remedy.”

Lee and Klobuchar are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights.

The full text of the letter is available here.


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