A breakthrough has been reached in the Netherlands in a long-running claims case against an alleged airfreight cartel that conspired to impose higher fuel and security surcharges on the European market.

Claims in an Amsterdam court have been withdrawn against former cartel members Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines after they reached a settlement with Equilib, the claims agency through which several hundred affected European shippers filed their claims against the airlines, the Dutch-language Nieuwsblad Transport reported. These included giants such as Philips, Siemens, HP, and Unilever.

A similar agreement is being negotiated with a fifth airline cartel member, according to Equilib legal representative Martijn van Maanen of the Hague law firm BarentsKrans.

In addition, the Cartel Compensation Foundation, which represents hundreds of shippers, has clinched similar settlements, according to its legal representative, Theodoor Verheij of the Rotterdam law firm Brande & Verheij. He could not confirm if the same four carriers were involved but said that airlines "have finally taken responsibility in the claims case, which has been made unnecessarily complex by the members of the air freight cartel".

Claims in the Netherlands have not yet been settled against Air France-KLM (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Martinair (Netherlands), and Air France), Lufthansa Group (including Lufthansa and Swiss), JAL - Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Cargolux, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, or Qantas, according to Van Maanen.

Until recently, members of the airfreight cartel in Europe had jointly opposed the shippers' claims, but hopes are high that the latest breakthrough in the case will pressure the remaining cartel members to settle. The exact settlement amounts offered by the four airlines are currently undisclosed, as Van Maanen has refrained from providing concrete details due to ongoing legal proceedings.

Van Maanen initiated a claim on behalf of Equilib against the cartel in the Netherlands in 2010. This involved ten carriers and aviation groups. The objective was to seek compensation for shippers affected by price agreements between airlines from December 1999 to February 2006, particularly focusing on fuel and security surcharges, which were artificially inflated.

As previously reported on November 9, 2010, the European Commission imposed EUR790 million euros (USD860 million) worth of fines on eleven global airlines that had participated in the price-fixing cartel. Lufthansa and Swiss received immunity from the fines after they provided information about the cartel. The penalties against Martinair, Japan Airlines, Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific, LATAM Chile, Qantas, Air Canada, Cargolux, and British Airways were later reduced after they cooperated with the investigation. All but Qantas challenged the decision before the European Union's General Court, which annulled the Commission's decision in December 2015 on procedural grounds. After addressing these, it reinstated the fines on March 17, 2017.