According to a new class action lawsuit, a group of airlines including United, Delta, and American allegedly conspired to collect a “Mexico Tourism Tax” on tickets for flights between the United States and Mexico, without authorization by the Mexican government and in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

The complaint, filed by Sommers Schwartz attorneys Andrew Kochanowski and a team of lawyers from other firms, claims that the defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme to levy a $20.00 to $25.00 fee on tickets held by a class of airlines passengers consisting of Mexican citizens and residents and children under the age of two. While the Mexican government does impose a mandatory tourism tax on tickets for flights originating outside the country, it expressly exempts the plaintiff class.

According to additional details reported by Law360 (subscription required), the lawsuit – Almanza et al. v. United Airlines, Inc. et al. – alleges the defendants buried the charge in passengers’ tickets and collected the fees, concealing the fact that the airlines lacked the power to do so. The plaintiffs further claim that the defendants established their illicit arrangement with the Mexican government in June 1999, but colluded to actively conceal it from the public in violation of the RICO Act.

The plaintiffs in the matter, which is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, are looking to expand the class to include all of Mexican nationals, guardians of children under the age of two at the time of travel, and foreigners with Mexican resident status who flew between the U.S. and Mexico beginning in June 1999.