Saturday, February 13, 2010

U.S. tentatively OKs American's 'oneworld' alliance
BOSTON (MarketWatch) -- American Airlines said Saturday that the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted tentative approval for its proposed trans-Atlantic travel alliance with several carriers.

American said it requested antitrust immunity from U.S. regulators for the alliance, called "oneworld," which includes British Airways, Finnair and Royal Jordanian. The DOT also gave an initial green light to American's proposed joint venture with British Airways and Iberia Airlines for flights between North America and Europe, American said. American said that Oneworld is aimed at competing with two other international airline alliances, Star and SkyTeam, both of which the company said already enjoy U.S. antitrust immunity. On Friday, American asked the DOT for antitrust immunity regarding a joint business with Japan Airlines for flights between North America and Asia.

Val Brickates Kennedy is a reporter for MarketWatch in Boston.

American Airlines Comments on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Tentative Approval of Trans-Atlantic Antitrust Immunity With oneworld Alliance

MembersExpresses Appreciation for the Support It Received from Congress, State and Local Officials for Proposal That Will Provide Consumers with More Travel Choices

FORT WORTH, Texas, Feb. 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- American Airlines today announced it has received tentative approval from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) for its trans-Atlantic antitrust immunity (ATI) request submitted in conjunction with fellow oneworld® alliance members British Airways, Iberia Airlines, Finnair and Royal Jordanian, in addition to approval of a joint business agreement proposed by American, British Airways and Iberia.

American and its co-applicants, which submitted their application in August 2008, will review DOT's tentative order and will respond according to the time frame established for comments.

The provisional approval by DOT is an important step in the process that will allow oneworld alliance members American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia to cooperate more effectively in competing with the Star and SkyTeam alliances, both of which already enjoy broad immunity from DOT.

In addition, the oneworld alliance members are continuing discussions with the European Union Competition Directorate.American, British Airways and Iberia plan to operate a joint business between North America and Europe. Their closer cooperation, made possible by antitrust immunity, will benefit customers with more travel choices and convenient schedules, expanded opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles, and greater availability of lower fares.

"We appreciate the thorough review that our request received from DOT and the U.S. Department of Justice," said Will Ris, American's Senior Vice President – Government Affairs. "We are pleased that DOT has agreed that it is in the best interest of the traveling public if American and other oneworld alliance carriers have an immunized relationship."Ris added,

"American also wants to publicly acknowledge the support that its proposal received from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the Ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee; Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.); the members of the Texas congressional delegation; and dozens of other U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives, local elected officials, airport officials, business and community leaders, and tourism industry experts.

"American and its oneworld partners are looking forward to competing for business over the Atlantic on a level playing field. Meanwhile, over the Pacific, we will continue to focus on ensuring that competition among alliances remains as robust as it is today," Ris said.

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