BRUSSELS - EUROPE'S competition watchdog hit 11 airlines with nearly 800 million euros (S$1.4 billion) in fines on Tuesday for running a global cargo cartel that included Air France-KLM, British Airways and Japan Airlines.

'It is deplorable that so many major airlines coordinated their pricing to the detriment of European businesses and European consumers,' said European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

The fines, totalling 799.4 million euros, were slapped on airlines that span the globe, from Air Canada and LAN Chile in the Americas to Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines in Asia and Qantas in Australia.

The 11 cargo carriers coordinated their action on surcharges for fuel and security without discounts over a six-year period, between December 1999 and February 2006, the European Commission said.

The cartel covered flights from, to and within the European Economic Area.

The Air France-KLM group was hit with the biggest fine, 310 million euros, of which 183 million euros was for Air France and 127 million euros for KLM.

Martinair, which is owned by Air France, was fined 29.5 million euros. Air France-KLM said it plans to appeal the fine.

EU fines 11 airlines $1.4b