Cathay Pacific

Travel agents will mull suing Cathay

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am

Travel agents in Hong Kong will consider suing Cathay Pacific and other airlines for lost commission if an Australian class-action suit that challenges the addition of fuel surcharges to air ticket prices succeeds.

Lawyers in Sydney lodged the suit on Friday on behalf of more than 1,450 Australian travel agents, claiming six international airlines deprived them of A$80 million (HK$486 million) and breached trade practices by claiming fuel surcharges as a separate tax instead of part of the airfare.

Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said all travel agents deserved the commission on the fuel surcharges because they collected the fees on behalf of the airlines, but could only claim commission on the ticket price.

'Travel agents have always felt that the fuel surcharge should be included in the price of the airfare,' Mr Tung said. 'If the court case is successful in Australia, we will definitely take this up.'

The travel agents filed the class action against Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines at Sydney's Federal Court, where it is due to be heard on February 6. Airlines argue that fuel surcharges cannot be included in airfares because of fluctuating fuel prices which have risen dramatically. Fuel surcharges are usually reviewed every two months.

Cathay Pacific cut the surcharge by 3.4 per cent this month as oil prices fell. Passengers pay HK$113 per ticket on short-haul trips and HK$466 on long-haul ones.

A Consumer Council spokeswoman said they had received 175 complaints about air tickets between January and October, compared to 183 for all of last year and 136 in 2004 when the fuel surcharges were introduced as a temporary measure to offset rising aviation fuel costs. However, the council did not have a breakdown of how many of the complaints related to fuel surcharges.

Cathay Pacific spokeswoman May Lam said the airline was aware of Australian media reports on the case, but had not received any formal notification of the lawsuit.

One travel agent said yesterday: 'Every passenger is suffering due to these fuel surcharges.'