The number of antitrust lawsuits continues to climb in federal courts around the U.S., including in Chicago, against the country’s major domestic airlines, accusing the airlines of colluding to keep their fares and fees artificially elevated.

Nationally, federal court records reveal 75 such cases have been introduced in federal district courts against United, American, Southwest and Delta airlines. In the Northern District of Illinois, in which United Airlines is based and from which the airlines fly regularly at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway international airports, nine such antitrust cases have been filed.

The wave of litigation took wing in early July, in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement it would investigate the airlines’ pricing practices.

The first such lawsuit filed in Chicago’s federal court was brought by a group of flyers who had purchased tickets on each of the airlines from Oct. 1, 2012, to July 2015.

Those plaintiffs, Anooshirvan Bidgoli, Barbara Hunter and Annie Migdal, said they were suing on behalf of all other passengers who had also purchased airfare from one of the four airlines during the same period.

They alleged the collusion is evidenced by the stubborn persistence of airfares at their current levels, despite a recent drop in the price of jet fuel, an input cost the plaintiffs allege historically determined air fares and should still.

The plaintiffs contend, since 2005, consolidations in the airline industry have reduced the number of domestic airlines from nine to four, who now collectively control 80 percent of domestic air travel.

The plaintiffs allege airlines have colluded on “capacity discipline” – essentially reducing the number of seats and flights available, allowing airlines to keep both prices and profit margins artificially high.

Lawsuits filed in the weeks since have leveled similar allegations against the airlines.

Named plaintiffs in the more recent actions and their attorneys include:

- Eileen Silver, who sued July 10 through attorneys from the firm of Pomerantz LLP, in Chicago;

- Jonathan Schumacher and Larissa Kosits, July 14, represented by the firms of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, of Chicago; Lockridge Grindal Nauen, of Minneapolis; Pritzker Levine, of Oakland, Calif.; and Corey, Luznich, De Ghetaldi, Nastor & Riddle, of Millbrae, Calif.; 

- Richard E. Kraft and Vincent Panfil, July 15, represented by the firm of Malkinson & Halpern, of Chicago;

- Alano Constantino, Jordan Leigh and Xavier Bess, July 20, represented by the firm of Korein Tillery, of Chicago and St. Louis;

- Jennifer McMahon and Edward C. Phillips, July 28, represented by the firms of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, of Chicago; Lockridge Grindal Nauen, of Minneapolis; Pritzker Levine, of Oakland, Calif.; and Corey, Luznich, De Ghetaldi, Nastor & Riddle, of Millbrae, Calif.; 

- Guillermo De La Garza, Gail Wolfe, William B. Cottrell, Angelina Chandler, Charles G. Dibrell III and Michael Olstein, Aug. 5, represented by the firms of Wexler Wallace, of Chicago, and Emerson Scott, of Houston, Texas;

- Kevin Scribner, Aug. 7, represented by Halunen Law, of Minneapolis; and,

- Michael Garzel, Aug. 7, represented by Wexler Wallace.

Each of the actions pending in the Northern District of Illinois are putative class actions.

Even with nine actions now pending, however, the Chicago courts still rank behind three other districts for litigation activity against the airlines.

Federal courts in San Francisco and Brooklyn, N.Y., have each taken on 15 cases, while the district of Minnesota has 11 pending, federal court records show.

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