Delta Air Lines Sanctioned for Withholding Evidence in Suit

Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) must pay plaintiffs’ legal fees in an evidence-gathering fight with customers, a judge said after finding the carrier wrongly withheld 60,000 documents in a lawsuit claiming it colluded with another airline.

Because there “is no smoking gun” implicating Delta in a conspiracy with AirTran Holdings Inc. to charge $15 to check the first bag as alleged in the 2008 suit, paying legal fees and costs is sufficient, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten wrote in an order.

Betsy Talton, a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Delta, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Delta is the world’s second-largest carrier. AirTran is now a unit of Dallas- based Southwest Airlines Co.

The withheld documents turned up in a related civil investigation by the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division.

The case is In re: Delta/AirTran (LUV) Baggage Fee Antitrust Litigation, 1:09-md-02089, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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