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The office found that British Airways and Virgin discussed fuel surcharges on at least six occasions over the year and a half to January 2006. Soon after that, Virgin went to the authorities.

In a statement, Virgin said it had informed regulators “as soon as our legal team was made aware of the nature of contacts that had occurred between some individuals at British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.”

Deborah Jones, deputy director of cartel investigation at the Office of Fair Trading, said it was just to treat Virgin differently because it had come forward first.

She said that did not mean Virgin would not be penalized.

“Virgin are still facing the censure, the publicity that they have engaged in this behavior,” she said. “They are not immune from customers who may seek some form of compensation.”

British Airways shares fell 1.2 percent to $7.98 on the London Stock Exchange.