The prosecution of three former British Airways executives and the carrier’s current sales and marketing director on price-fixing charges is due to begin today at Southwark Crown Court in London.

The four stand accused of colluding with Virgin Atlantic to fix the level of fuel surcharges on transatlantic flights between 2004 and 2006. The charges were brought by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), with those found guilty facing up to five years in prison.

Senior figures at Virgin Atlantic, including chief executive Steve Ridgway and former communications director Paul Moore, are expected to give evidence.

Virgin Atlantic escaped a fine and possible prosecution in return for blowing the whistle on the alleged conspiracy.

The four defendants deny the charges. They are BA sales and marketing director Andrew Crawley, former BA commercial director and board member Martin George, former BA head of communications Iain Burns and former BA head of UK and Ireland sales Alan Burnett.

BA admitted the price fixing in August 2007 when chief executive Willie Walsh condemned “the anti-competitive conduct by a very limited number of individuals within British Airways.”

The carrier paid a fine of £121.5 million to the OFT, plus one of $300 million to the US Department of Justice on associated charges, and together with Virgin Atlantic has paid out $200 million in compensation to US passengers.

However, Crawley has continued in his role and been promoted to the airline’s management board since the OFT brought charges against him.

The case is expected to last between three and six months.