A senior airline executive faces jail in the US following a criminal investigation into price fixing between carriers, in a move that will alarm several past and present British Airways and Virgin Atlantic bosses who face similar investigation.

The US Department of Justice announced that Timothy Pfeil, former director of sales and marketing in North America for SAS Scandinavian Airlines, has agreed a guilty plea and will serve six months in prison – subject to court approval. SAS was fined $52 million earlier this month.

Pfeil is the second airline manager to enter a guilty plea in return for an agreed jail sentence. Former Qantas cargo vice-president in the Americas Bruce McCaffrey became the first in May, when he was jailed for eight months. Several airline executives remain under investigation.

The charges relate to collusion between carriers on the level of fuel surcharges on cargo. Nine airlines, including British Airways, Air France-KLM, Qantas and Cathay Pacific have pleaded guilty to price fixing and been fined more than $1.2 billion in the US.

Serving and former managers of BA and Virgin Atlantic are under investigation in the US for their role in the fixing of fuel surcharges on passenger fares.

Four past and present BA executives, including head of sales Andrew Crawley, are also likely to face charges in the UK over colluding with Virgin Atlantic on passenger fuel surcharges. The UK’s Office of Fair Trading would not comment on reports that charges are pending.