British and United States agencies are investigating a possible conspiracy to illegally fix the amounts of fuel surcharges imposed on passengers on long-distance flights to and from Britain.

Most major airlines flying between the United States and Heathrow, London's main international airport, charge passengers about £35 ($64) each way in fuel surcharges.

The Justice Department and the Office of Fair Trade in Britain have contacted British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, United Airlines and American Airlines and may be talking to others in connection with the investigation. Violation of price-fixing laws could carry civil and criminal penalties.

The Office of Fair Trade announced the investigation on Thursday but said that it was "at an early stage" and that "no assumption should be made that there has been an infringement of competition law."

Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said, "The antitrust division is investigating the possibility of anticompetitive practices involving surcharges and rates for passenger fares and air cargo shipments."

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