Air France undeterred by SkyTeam anti-trust setback

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Flight International online news 09:00GMT: Air France remains confident that it will gain US anti-trust immunity for itself and five other members of the SkyTeam alliance, despite damning feedback from its application from the US Department of Justice.

The French flag-carrier, together with Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM and Northwest Airlines are seeking anti-trust immunity to increase their co-operation in the USA and further their relationship within the SkyTeam alliance.

The US Department of Transport is considering the application but, in its consultative role, the US Department of Justice has voiced strong opposition to the request.

Applicants must demonstrate that the benefits of their partnership cannot be achieved without immunity and that these outweigh any harmful effects on competition.

But the DOJ says that the application “fails to demonstrate” these criteria. In particular it highlights that there is “no justification” for immunity requested on transpacific routes and routes to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

It says that “a substantial portion” of the claimed benefits could be achieved by codesharing, which creates minimal anti-trust risk.

But Air France says that the DOJ only has a “consultative role” in the approval process. The airline says: “It is worth noting that the Department of Justice recognised that a transatlantic joint venture between the six carriers would not raise any competitive concerns with the Department of Justice, so Air France is confident that the anti-trust immunity application will be approved.”

VICTORIA MOORES/LONDON