South African Airways, Mango Air offices raided in price-fixing probe

South African Airways, the state- owned carrier, and its low-cost fruity airline Mango, had their offices raided by the South Africa's antitrust regulator as part of an investigation into price collusion during the soccer World Cup. The Competition Commission seized documents and electronic data in the March 31 raids, which included a search of the offices of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, the agency said in an e-mailed statement today.

The commission said on Jan. 28 that it’s investigating Comair Ltd., which is part owned by British Airways Plc, 1time Holdings Ltd., SA Airlink and SA Express for allegedly colluding to fix the price of air tickets during the soccer tournament, which begins on June 11. South Africa is expected to attract 350,000 visitors to the matches, according to FIFA, the soccer governing body.

Last week’s raid was “prompted by the commission’s suspicion SAA and Mango might have withheld information having a bearing on the investigation,” the commission said. Documents seized “will now be analyzed together with other information gathered to determine whether a contravention of the Competition Act has taken place.”

SAA is giving its “full support” to the commission’s probe and wants to “ensure that matters are brought to a resolution as soon as possible,” the airline said in an e- mailed statement today. SAA said in January that it was cooperating with investigators in exchange for leniency from prosecution.
Airlines Association.

Chris Zweigenthal, chief executive officer of the Airlines Association, confirmed that documents were taken by the commission last week. The association hadn’t previously been asked by the commission to provide information for its investigation, he said.

“We fully complied with them,” Zweigenthal said in a phone interview today. “I’m not aware of any price-fixing in the industry. We are waiting to see what comes out of this investigation.”
The South African government expects the World Cup, the most-watched sporting event, to add 0.5 percent to gross domestic product.
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