German giants at war – Air Cargo News Exclusive

JUST as DHL and Lufthansa launch their new joint-venture airline, Air Cargo News can exclusively reveal that DHL is demanding US$75 million from Lufthansa for price-fixing and is allegedly taking airfreight away from the airline as the companies attempt to settle the dispute.

AS the heads of DHL and Lufthansa Cargo gathered at the press conference launch of their new joint-venture cargo airline Aerologic last week, a huge battle was continuing behind the scenes of the two companies that threatens to break out into all-out war.

Air Cargo News has learned that DHL is claiming US$75 million in a civil claim against Lufthansa for cartel price-fixing activity – a cartel that the airline blew the whistle on in return for certain immunities back in 2006. Lufthansa has, thus far, refused to meet DHL’s demands.

More astonishingly, sources within the companies allege that Lufthansa’s refusal to pay has led DHL to seek revenge by moving airfreight to other airlines.

Circumstantial evidence that LH Cargo freight volumes from DHL have dropped at a number of stations, appears to back up the allegations.

Lufthansa Cargo and Swiss International Airlines were named in an $85 million class action settlement in the US, from which the settlement amount was to be distributed between the claimants. Lufthansa agreed to settle by paying the $85 million in the US and $5.3 million in Canada. However, DHL has allegedly opted out of the class settlement and is pursuing its own claim.

The civil class action is run separately from the anti-trust criminal prosecutions and fines that have been levied against many other airlines.

Where this leaves the newly-born Aerologic is unclear. DHL Express was keen to point out that the battle was only between DHL Global Forwarding (DGF) and Lufthansa and did not affect their plans or operations of the new B777Fs. Yet, Lufthansa Cargo operates the aircraft at weekends and would partially rely on DGF to help fill the aircraft.

Asked to confirm or deny the allegations, LH Cargo’s director communications, Nils Haupt, stated that: “Lufthansa Cargo is not commenting on any issues regarding the civil litigation in the US.”

DHL Global Forwarding communications was unable or unwilling to confirm or deny the allegations of a $75 million claim, despite numerous requests for a response. In addition, global head of airfreight, Michael Schaecher, was also unable to confirm or deny the allegations. Asked the direct question whether DHL was using other airlines at the expense of Lufthansa, he elected not to answer the question at that time.

A spokesperson for DHL Express told Air Cargo News that the conflict was “nothing to do with Express, we are not involved in the dispute”.

Howard J Sedran of lawyers Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, part of the settlement class counsel, was also unable to confirm or deny that DHL had opted out of the settlement. “I don’t believe that information is yet in the public domain,” he said.

For the full story see the 10 July issue of Air Cargo News

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